Welcome to Thursday Trailer Face-Off, a feature in which we cast a critical eye on two similar upcoming film releases, pitting them against each other across a variety of categories to determine which is most deserving of your two hours. This week: The Lucky One vs. The Vow, two unapologetically schlocky romantic dramas (with connections to The Notebook, of course) in which muscular gentlemen endeavor to win the hearts of altogether befuddled ladies.
Premise In The Lucky One, Zac Efron plays a soldier who, while fighting in Iraq, finds a photo of a lady amidst the rubble of a skirmish. He falls in love with her picture, or something, and decides when he arrives back in the States to try to find her. (We’re not sure how: does he just type “Internet, where is this blonde girl from a photo I found in Iraq” into the search bar and that’s that?) When he discovers she works on a horse farm that has a job opening, he gets himself hired and sets about throwing hay around until the lady in question, who seems to have an abusive husband, notices him and starts making out with him fully dressed in an outdoor shower. In The Vow, Rachel McAdams and Channing Tatum play a couple of newlyweds who are punished for playfully singing a Meat Loaf song at a stop sign when a truck plows into the back of their sensible midsized sedan. The accident leaves McAdams’ character in a coma—and when she wakes up, she thinks Tatum’s character is her doctor! She doesn’t remember him, or their marriage, at all. So he sets about trying to win her love—again. We’re giving the win to The Lucky One for two reasons: one, coma-as-dramatic-device is a little played out; and two, we really are curious how Efron’s character figures out who this random girl in the photo is. Is the secret that he uses Bing instead of Google? Advantage: The Lucky One
Leads Opposite Efron, The Lucky One stars Taylor Schilling, a relatively unknown actress whose biggest parts thus far have been as a nurse in TV series Mercy and as Dagny Taggart in an adaptation of Atlas Shrugged that we did not, until just now, know came out this year. She’s rumored to have a big part in David O. Russell’s The Silver Linings Playbook, so maybe she’s a rising star—but she doesn’t yet stack up against Rachel McAdams, whose dramatic bona fides are firmly in place by now. (Funny coincidence: she also starred in a film three years ago called The Lucky Ones, plural, which was also about Iraq vets. Huh!) And we also have a little more faith in Channing Tatum than in Zac Efron—you can give the kid as many muscles as you want, Hollywood studio; he’ll still always be the weirdly symmetrical star of High School Musical to us. (And we haven’t quite let him off the hook for Charlie St. Cloud yet, either.) Advantage: The Vow
Dubious Details There’s one thing in each of these trailers that just sticks in our craw. In The Vow, it’s McAdams’ hair. We understand this is a film in which a lot of time elapses, but still, she somehow seems to go through at least six different hairstyles, with multiple colors and any number of variations on the theme of “unflattering bangs.” Why did they do this to her?! The hair thing is nothing, though, compared to the fact that we’re meant to believe, in The Lucky One, that Zac Efron is a sergeant in the Marines. A sergeant in the Marines. (Incidentally, we wonder whether the film’s marketers are happy or sad that the war in Iraq officially ended yesterday, meaning the film is now set in the past rather than the present.) Advantage: The Vow Romantic Chemistry Frankly, the requisite, goofy “hey audiences, relate to this!” moment that opens The Vow‘s trailer—McAdams giggling and begging Tatum to stop singing along to “I Would Do Anything for Love”—rang a little false to us. The two of them are kind of a weird match! We feel like he captained the basketball team in high school, and she did student council—not an adversarial relationship, per se, but not much in common, either. And although we don’t know much about Taylor Schilling—and could never in a million years feel personally attracted to Zac Efron ourselves—we have to admit there does seem to be some pretty genuine chemistry in The Lucky One‘s trailer. Their kiss: genuinely passionate! Advantage: The Lucky One
Connections to The Notebook This may be our favorite category ever to appear in a Trailer Face-Off. And both films have pretty legitimate claims to the title! They’re being marketed in much the same way: The Lucky One springs “From the acclaimed bestselling author of The Notebook and Dear John,” while The Vow‘s leads are introduced via title card in the trailer as “From The Notebook, Rachel McAdams” and “From Dear John, Channing Tatum.” Does no one recall a little movie called A Walk to Remember? Just asking. Advantage: Tie
Director A tough category! We have to lay down some respect for Michael Sucsy, director of The Vow, because he wrote and directed the Drew Barrymore HBO adaptation of Grey Gardens (and won an Emmy and a Golden Globe for it). He was also, a decade and a half ago, a production secretary on Jungle 2 Jungle, easily our favorite late-’90s Tim Allen film. But The Lucky One‘s director, Scott Hicks, has been Oscar-nominated twice (for writing and directing Shine), and has directed some prestigey pictures, like Snow Falling on Cedars and a documentary about Philip Glass. He’s also been in the biz longer: his first feature was in 1974. Advantage: The Lucky One
The Verdict We’re genuinely surprised by where we landed on this one! We figured we’d pick the McAdams vehicle over the Efron vehicle any day of the week. And maybe if The Vow had displayed a sense of humor about itself—”Girlfriend in a Coma” scoring the trailer, maybe?—it would’ve won. But overall, we’re curious enough about what happens between Efron finding Schilling’s picture and the two of them living happily ever after that we’re willing to give The Lucky One the win. Winner: The Lucky One
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