Review by Gordon Justesen
Stars: John Travolta,
Lisa Kudrow, Tim Roth, Ed OíNeill, Michael Rapaport, Bill Pullman
Director: Nora Ephron
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround, French Dolby Surround
Video: Widescreen 1.85:1 Anamorphic Transfer
Features: Trailer, Cast and Crew Interviews, Commentary
Length: 105 Minutes
Release Date: March 20, 2001
was both a success and a failure at the same time. I consider it a huge success
for the star, John Travolta, whose previous film was the debacle known as Battlefield
Earth. Ironically, Lucky Numbers wasnít too lucky at the box
office, ranking in even less numbers than Battlefield Earth did.
Thankfully, it did garner few more positive reviews, and proved that Mr.
Travolta, like any brilliant actor, can bounce back from a movie disaster and
deliver his absolute best. Travolta is at his most charming, charismatic best in
a film that allows him to go the comic distance and make such an irresistible
fool of himself in a character that is memorably goofy, and realistic at the
same time. In short, Battlefield Earth deserved to be the mega-flop that
it was, but I wished that Lucky Numbers had found its audience, because I
consider it to be one of the more superbly witty comedies of recent memory.
The movie is
supposedly inspired by actual events that occurred in Harrisburg, PA in 1988.
Travolta stars as Russ Richards, a local TV weatherman who is also
Harrisburgís biggest celebrity. His face appears on just about every billboard
in town, he is the proud owner of a snowmobile dealership, and he also has his
own reserved table at Dennyís. But even a celebrity has their flaws, and Russ
currently has a big one. Receiving a notice of foreclosure, Russ realizes heís
in a huge amount of debt. His boss (Ed OíNeill), refuses to loan him any more
money. He then turns to a friend of his named Gig (Tim Roth), who runs a strip
club and has numerous criminal ties, for help. The two then plan to stage a
phony robbery at the snowmobile dealership. By doing this, Russ will earn back
more than what he loses by way of his insurance. When that plan gets seriously
botched, Gig comes up with a better plan. He convinces Russ that rigging the
state lottery would be a far better and more legit way of getting the quick cash
he needs. The lottery winning stand at 6.4 million dollars, which is more than
enough to get Russ out of debt. He also happens to be sleeping with Crystal
(Lisa Kudrow), who works as the lotto girl for the network, which makes it very
easy to convince her to play a part in the scheme.
Of course, a plan is
known as a list of things that never happen, and thatís just about what
happens in Lucky Numbers. Following the rigging of the lottery, Russ and
Crystal realize that they need someone else to cash in the ticket. The first
attempt involves the use of Crystalís cousin (Michael Moore) who has asthma.
Once that element goes downhill, every possible cohort of the scheme wants their
cut. Russís boss, who suspects him and Crystal, wants half the money or will
expose the two. An associate of Gigís named Dale the Thug (Michael Rapaport),
who frequently has to break fingers for Gig, wants a good share of the dough as
well. And Gig himself has already been guaranteed twenty percent of the loot.
Russ about now realizes that heíll be right back in debt.
Most of the
characters in Lucky Numbers arenít particularly likeable, but the movie
remains fun anyway. John Travolta hasnít done many comedies lately, and his
turn as loveable goofball Russ Richards is one of his most delightful
performances yet. Russ is cocky, charismatic, charming, and self-centered to a
degree, but I still found myself rooting for him anyway. Lisa Kudrow is at her
usual smarminess as Crystal, the ultimate bimbo who is clearly ruthless,
self-centered and nothing more. And although Iíve seen Michael Rapaport play
the character he plays in this movie countless times, he still comes off
hysterical. Thereís another funny performance in the movie from Bill Pullman
as perhaps the most inept cop to ever grace the screen since Frank Drebin in The
was simply a winner for me. The movie is consistently witty and sharp, and
filled with genuinely winning comedic performances from itís stars. Fans of
Mr. Travolta should not hesitate to check this movie out, as it is winning proof
that he has risen from the ashes of Battlefield Earth and returned to
superb top form.
Paramount turns up
yet another impressive video transfer with this release. Anamorphically
enhanced, this widescreen presentation is clear and supremely sharp for the most
part, give or take a few soft images in a couple of darkly lit scenes, but other
than that, the picture is of superb form, with terrific color image and
An all around nice job on the audio, for a film thatís
mostly made up of dialogue, and occasional music bits from the 80s. Paramount
offers up both a Dolby Digital 5.1 track, as well as 2.0 Dolby Surround in both
English and French. Sound is mostly of clear and crisp order.
A moderate use of extras from Paramount this time around. Featured on this disc is a commentary by director Nora Ephron, a cast and crew interview segment, and a trailer for the film. This has been the standard form of features use from Paramount, so lets hope it doesnít get any lower than this for future releases.
Fans of dark comedies
will definitely get a kick out of Lucky Numbers. A movie that is
definitely a lighter version of such films as A Simple Plan and Fargo,
and with a winning comic tone, which is fueled by Mr. Travoltaís winning