Lucky 13 (2004)

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Director: Chris Hall
Writers: Chris Hall and Ari Schlossberg
Cast: Sasha Alexander, Kaley Cuoco, Lauren Graham, Brad Hunt, Taryn Manning, Debra Jo Rupp, and Harland Williams


© Copyright MGM Studios

© Copyright MGM Studios

Lucky 13 is so spectacularly inept I had to read the back of the DVD case to figure out just what the movie is meant to be about. Frankly, I’m still not entirely convinced. According to the blurb, the romantic comedy stars Brad Hunt as Zach Baker, a perpetual loser at love who discovers his childhood crush Abbey (Lauren Graham) is moving away. Enlisting the help of his best friend Bleckman (Harland Williams), he decides to track down his twelve ex-girlfriends to find out what went wrong and prevent Abbey from becoming his unlucky thirteen.

However, the number thirteen never makes it in the actual film. Confusingly, seven women are listed when Zach first reveals his plan, and even given an extremely loose definition of the term, only nine ex-girlfriends appear in the entire movie. How any of this adds up to thirteen is beyond me, but I suspect I’m not alone in my puzzlement. Consider the promotional image, which features the film’s protagonist surrounded by heart-shaped pictures of twelve female characters, only half of which have had anything remotely close to a romantic or sexual relationship with Zach. Well, at least they didn’t put his mother up there.

What’s truly offensive is the way the movie portrays these women, whom, incidentally, Zach doesn’t seek out so much as stumble upon for the convenience of the plot. Consisting exclusively of misogynistic stereotypes like the aspiring homemaker desperate for a husband (Pamela Segall-Adlon) and the disease-carrying skank who can’t recognize her sexual partners (Taryn Manning), the female characters in Lucky 13 are so inhumanly shallow they’d make a porn producer scream for a rewrite. It doesn’t help that Zach’s old girlfriends are given an average screen time of under a minute to dish out their lame relationship advice, which includes, “Accentuate your ass,” and, “Suck a pen.”

The only ex present in more than one scene is Susie (Sasha Alexander), who pops up now and then to pine psychotically over Zach and irritate the audience with poorly staged slapstick. Strangely, her recurrent appearances never have a lasting impact on the plot. She tends to just show up out of nowhere, deliver her iffy punchline, and then quickly disappear from everyone’s consciousness. In this regard, she’s a lot like the rest of Zach’s former lovers, who often forget to give him any sort of counsel, good or bad, thus forgoing their only shot at contributing to the story.

Given the general impertinence of the women in his life, it’s no surprise Zach has become obsessed with Abbey, even though her two defining moments consist of calling someone a peach and being condescending to a pushy waitress. Abbey isn’t exactly a catch, but she’s played by Lauren Graham with about half her usual charm, which is enough to make us forget the character’s willingness to jumpstart her artistic career by leading on a hapless yuppie (Michael Landes). Admittedly, I’m quite smitten with Graham as an actress. She could spend the entire film quietly staring at a wall, and I’d still find her endearing. It’s just unfortunate the wall is portrayed by Brad Hunt.

© Copyright MGM Studios

© Copyright MGM Studios

I’m having trouble deciding whether Zach Baker is meant to be awkward or emotionally stunted. Either way, Hunt grossly overshoots the mark with a performance that seems derivative of a permanent vegetative state. This makes it impossible to relate to the character, who reacts to every situation with the same dimwitted expression and swings his arms around like a prepubescent child with a particularly low I.Q. It’s as if someone had kidnapped Ernest P. Worrell, stuffed him full of Prozac, and dropped him on the set with a goofy haircut. I wonder how long it took before Harland Williams realized he’d have to carry the picture alone.

The filmmakers must have come to the same conclusion sometime during production because they gave Williams’ character a spontaneous happy ending while neglecting to conclude the main plot. It’s a bit mystifying, really. Conceding the notion that Zach is getting dating tips from at least some of his former lovers, there’s only two ways this movie should end: either the hero receives good advice and becomes a better man for it, or he gets bad advice and learns to trust his own instincts. Instead the film opts for door number three, which manages to ignore every aspect of its confused premise. Ambiguity is not tantamount to depth, especially not when it’s so arbitrary.

To recap, Lucky 13 is a misogynistic comedy in which an unsympathetic protagonist announces an ill-defined quest, which he then proceeds to ignore while a convoluted approximation of it washes over him with as little consequence as possible. It’s as if the movie were made by a frustrated eighth grader with attention deficit disorder who’s been dumped three times in a row for the captain of the football team. Of course, you’d be hard pressed to find an eighth grader who can’t count to thirteen.

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