THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


I like Lindsay Lohan. Really, I do. The film work she’s done so far has easily surpassed that of her contemporaries, like Hilary Duff and Amanda Bynes. Okay, that probably sounds like sarcasm, but I mean it. Lohan gave strong performances in Freaky Friday and, especially, Mean Girls that proved her talent. Unfortunately, her tabloid image often obscures the fact that Lohan is a promising young actress. The next couple of years will be crucial, as she tries to bridge the gap between the teen fantasies that have made her so successful and the adult roles she would no doubt like to play. Just My Luck tries to fall somewhere in the middle, as it attempts to position Lohan firmly in Reese Witherspoon territory without being so grown up as to alienate her core teen fan base. Like any movie that tries to pre-fab itself to fit multiple demographics, this one stretches itself too thin.

Lohan plays Ashley, the luckiest girl in the world. You know that old saying “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade”? Well, she doesn’t have to worry about that because life never gives her lemons. There’s always a cab ready when she steps out the door, and every lottery ticket she scratches is a winning one. This continual good fortune amazes her friends Maggie (Samaire Armstrong) and Dana (Bree Turner). Ashley works as an assistant in a Manhattan PR company run by the snooty Peggy Braden (Missi Pyle). When Peggy and the other executives are delayed for an important meeting with a hotshot music mogul named Damon Phillips (Faizon Love), Ashley pinch hits by suggesting a publicity event that ultimately earns her a promotion.

That event is a star-studded masquerade ball. (Why anyone would want to invite a bunch of big celebrities to their event, then have them hide behind masks is left unanswered.) Crashing the party is a young man named Jake (Chris Pine). He is the exact opposite of Ashley in that all his luck is bad. Cars splash him when he stands by the curb, and birds do target practice on his clothing. Jake works as a janitor at a bowling alley but dreams of managing a rock band named McFly that he has “discovered.” He figures his best opportunity is to slip a CD into the hands of Phillips, so he sneaks his way into Ashley’s event.

The plot demands that Ashley and Jake wind up on the dance floor, where they spontaneously kiss. In that moment, their luck switches. She gets fired, winds up in jail, and loses her apartment. He, on the other hand, gets the band signed to a record label and ends up living in a tricked-out loft. With the help of a fortune teller, Ashley eventually figures out what has happened. She reasons that the only way to get her luck back is to find the masked stranger and kiss him again. In her quest, she meets Jake and falls in love with him, completely unaware that he’s the guy she’s looking for.

I suppose that this is a cute premise for a romantic comedy, but that’s all it is. Just My Luck doesn’t have many ideas for how to execute that premise. Instead, we simply get one scene after another displaying the characters’ fortunes or misfortunes. Some of them are admittedly clever (Ashley misses an elevator that ends up getting stuck between floors), and some are just dumb (Ashley falling face first into a giant mud sculpture). Most are just predictable (Ashley’s umbrella breaks during a storm, she sits in wet paint, etc.). This is one of those movies where you see 97% of the jokes coming a mile away.

The first half of Just My Luck has a predictable but not entirely unpleasant feel. However, in the second half, it paints itself into a corner. Once Ashley and Jake find each other, there’s nothing to do until she figures out that he stole her luck, which doesn’t happen until close to the end. To fill in the gaps, way too much time is spent on the less-than-endearing pop rock of McFly, a real band obviously here as part of some corporate synergy strategy. This subplot is really not essential and should have remained in the background. But in the absence of anything else, the film intertwines their fate with that of our lead characters. As a sign of how desperate the story gets, consider that when the band needs someone to write them a hit song, Maggie is suddenly revealed to be an aspiring songwriter. Apparently, a two-second shot of her holding a guitar earlier in the film was supposed to clue us in to this fact.

After what seems like an eternity, Ashley does finally put all the pieces together and fills Jake in on the whole thing. By this point, I didn’t care anymore. Lindsey Lohan and Chris Pine are likeable, energetic performers, but they are stuck in a screenplay that is merely going through the motions. It feels like the story must have been intended for slightly older actors at one point; Ashley and Jake, as played by these actors, seem far too young to be so wrapped up in the idea of fate. Then again, even casting older actors wouldn’t change the fact that the script is fundamentally weak. Just My Luck is the cinematic equivalent of stepping on a crack and breaking your mama’s back.

( out of four)

Just My Luck is rated PG-13 for some brief sexual references. The running time is 1 hour and 42 minutes.

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