Lucky Numbers

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Lucky Numbers

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Lucky Numbers

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Featuring John Travolta as a Pennsylvania weatherman whose modest celebrity has gone to his head, a crime-caper plot filled with colorful and well-cast characters, and a smattering of clever ideas, Lucky Numbers shouldn't have turned out as bad as it did. The X-factor? It must be director Nora Ephron, whose box-office record with candybox poison like Michael and You've Got Mail has created the false impression that she possesses the slightest flair for comedy. Down on his luck thanks to an ill-starred snowmobile business, Travolta begins to seek alternate sources of income, eventually conspiring with lover Lisa Kudrow to rig the state lottery at the suggestion of local underworld figure Tim Roth. Predictably, but far more slowly than might be expected, the plan goes awry, with their take dwindling as others learn of the plan and attempt to extract their own cuts. Probably intended as a dark comedy, Numbers' only edginess comes from its unbridled contempt for its characters, a quality that cuts into what marginal charm it might otherwise have had. Defender Of The Common Man Michael Moore, for example, pops up as a bumbling, asthmatic, deeply religious backwoods porn enthusiast, condensing a half-dozen provincial clichés into one character. Similarly, Travolta and Kudrow make it difficult to care about their success or failure, but even with likable characters, Ephron's film would still be free of both life and laughs. Perhaps in its original form, the script (by Chris Elliott collaborator Adam Resnick) had more going for it. Here, it resembles an Elmore Leonard novel as reworked by the writing staff of Veronica's Closet, as unappealing an alchemy as any worked by a director whose most notable cinematic contribution thus far has been finding common ground between stale romantic-comedy formulas and mail-order catalogs.

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