- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 3, 2007

The studio behind “Lucky You” kept postponing its release date, despite a star-laden cast (Eric Bana, Drew Barrymore and Robert Duvall) and a shrewd director (“L.A. Confidential’s” Curtis Hanson).

In gambling parlance, that’s called a “tell.”

Let’s hope moviegoers can read the studio’s poker face before submitting to this dud about a gambler seeking redemption.

Mr. Bana is Huck Cheever, a supposed poker ace who lives in a home without furniture and owes just about everyone he knows.

When he spots a pretty girl at the casino one night, he uses his knack for reading people to meet her.

The beautiful Billie (Miss Barrymore) isn’t naive enough to fall for his snappy patter. But then she is. And then she isn’t.

It’s hard to know what to make of Billie, but more on that later.

The two flirt over a round of poker and some Chinese food. They wind up intermingled in bed.

When Huck steals Billie’s money in the middle of the night and scampers back to the casino for another round of poker, Billie has had enough.

But because this tepid story demands a romantic subplot, we’ll inexplicably see her again.

Back at the casino, Huck keeps running into L.C., his estranged father played by Mr. Duvall. Ol’ L.C. is a poker king himself, having won the World Series of Poker twice already. Now, papa is about to enter the tournament again, and Huck wants to be there, too, if he can stop frittering away the entrance fee.

Will Huck make the tournament? Could Billie be the girl for him? Can Mr. Duvall create a wisp of a character out of a coppery toupee and a fistful of poker chips?

You’ll guess who wins nearly every hand throughout “Lucky You,” and that doesn’t even count the simplistic storytelling away from the poker tables.

Maybe if Mr. Hanson, who co-wrote this dramatic slop, had spent more time away from those tables we’d care about the players. But “Lucky You” feels like watching a poker tournament on television, and viewers will long for a commercial break.

Miss Barrymore wisely wants to start playing more adult roles, but she is woefully miscast here as the inscrutable Billie. Her angelic face and sweet lisp don’t add up to a woman who could be taken in by Huck. At times, Miss Barrymore looks like she wandered off the set of the next Adam Sandler rom-com, with all her girlish tics intact.

Then again, it’s doubtful any actress could make sense of the poorly conceived Billie.

Mr. Bana is no piker in the miscasting department. He excels at projecting an inner steel, a sense that his mind is working overtime and his body will soon react. We need a snake oil salesman here, not a brooding introvert.

Consider “Lucky You” one of Mr. Duvall’s paycheck appearances, allowing him to do interesting projects like AMC’s “Broken Trail” without dipping into his savings. The film’s father-son tension is hastily assembled in the first reel and never progresses.

Visually, “Lucky You” can’t take advantage of the city’s gaudy appeal. A film like this might play up Vegas’ seedier side, or trumpet the city’s excesses. Instead, this Las Vegas could be any other town with an abundance of neon.

It’s little wonder “Lucky You” sat on a shelf for a spell. It’s also a warning sign for the often delightful Miss Barrymore. Wanna grow up on screen? Don’t bet on a simplistic drama like “Lucky You” to make it happen.

?1/2

TITLE: “Lucky You”

RATING: PG-13 (Some adult language and frank humor)

CREDITS: Directed by Curtis Hanson. Written by Mr. Hanson and Eric Roth.

RUNNING TIME: 124 minutes

WEB SITE: https://luckyyoumovie. warnerbros.com/

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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