Audiences not entirely out of luck with latest Lohan flick

by Matt Hill | 5/16/06 5:00am

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Lindsay Lohan and Chris Pine swap fortunes in
by Courtesy of Dark Horizons / The Dartmouth

But, perhaps more importantly, among professional film critics and moviegoers alike, Lohan's acting abilities have, for a long time, been widely debated. She certainly showed promise early on in her career: At the young age of 11, she played both the scheming preteens in "The Parent Trap" -- one with a surprisingly authentic British accent -- with startling confidence and a charisma beyond her years. And she was great in her next film, "Freaky Friday," as well, playing off horror vet Jamie Lee Curtis as a raven-haired punk princess best described as a cross between Holden Caulfield and Avril Lavigne. Things were looking up for Lohan -- her career was on the rise.

And then "Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen" happened. A seemingly innocuous chick-lit screen adaptation, "Confessions" was about the most soulless movie I've seen in a decade (here's looking at you, "Showgirls"), inspiring the kind of Sartrean nausea one feels after spending three hours in AD's basement. Lohan went on to be endearing once again (and, let's be honest, pretty damn hot) in 2004's "Mean Girls," but the memory of her previous movie remained like a block of months-old muenster cheese hidden in the back of a refrigerator.

Skipping over the frightful "Herbie: Fully Loaded," Lohan's next project, "Just My Luck," would seem a step in the right direction. In the film, Lohan, still 19, plays Ashley, a young woman in her early twenties -- think "Sex and the City: The Next Generation" -- blessed by a well-paying job, a couple of quick-talking, effervescent and attractive friends, a classy wardrobe straight out of the pages of Versace and Dolce catalogues and, more than all that, enough sheer luck to make King Midas green with envy.

Things fall apart, of course, when a man enters the equation, and he comes in the form of Chris Pine, playing Jake, a likeable but low-rent DJ working at a local bowling alley, who is so down on luck that simply crossing the street seems a Herculean task with pitfalls at every turn. In a scene that appears to pay tribute to both "Romeo and Juliet" and the music video for Britney Spears' "You Drive Me Crazy," Ashley and Jake meet at a costume party, dance for a few moments and share a star-crossed kiss that literally crosses their stars: Ashley loses all of her luck and Jake receives it. Ashley is arrested almost on the spot for a trivial crime, and Jake saves the life of a high-rolling music executive, who is subsequently happy to give Jake's friends, the true-to-life pop rock band McFly, a shot at a possible record deal.

The trailer for the film had made much of this clear, and for understandable reasons, as I waited for the lights to dim at the theater, I had some trepidations (and, yes, regrets) about what I was about to see. The theater itself was a study in target audiences: I, betrayed by a friend who had said she'd go, sat alone, sucking down an oversized Sierra Mist and trying not to choke on my nonpareils. Around me were about twenty teenage girls, with a few accompanying boyfriends, and in the back were two men over fifty, who, barring any Nabokovian inclinations, must have felt at least somewhat out of place. The movie began to a cacophony of giggling and shushes, of crunchy popcorn kernels and crinkling candy wrappers. I groaned, lamenting my most recent assignment. At least the ticket was free.

And the movie really wasn't that bad. Lohan is in good form here, despite reports that she was either tanked or recovering throughout the majority of the movie's filming, and she almost single-handedly keeps the movie afloat despite its paper-thin (and, of course, entirely ridiculous) premise. There isn't, admittedly, much chemistry between the two leads, but given the fact that they are apart for much of the film's protracted running time, Lohan's flint and Pine's stone are able to generate sufficient sparkage to keep the film's underlying romance alive and interesting.

There are also a few genuine laughs in the course of the film, namely dealing with the hard luck imposed on Lohan's character, brought about in the form of a broken heel, a couple of jabs to the face at a local prison, a hyper-reactive hairdryer and an unstable shelf of heavy bowling balls. The movie seems to accept its premise as fundamentally gimmicky, but it milks the gimmick just enough without tiring it out. While this doesn't excuse the film from being one-trick, shallow and ultimately, completely irrelevant, it does allow it some credence as a work of charming stupidity.

What's more, despite months of drinking, partying and who-knows-what-else, Lohan is still able to maintain her considerable onscreen charm, wielding a unique magnetism that is as obvious to the audience as it must be to "X3" director Brett Ratner. Lohan's confident stride, her pneumatic physique and her sultry, deep-set voice are just as endearing as they were in "Mean Girls" -- her best movie to date -- even if, overall, she isn't quite as dream-girl memorable.

In the end, as with many movies of this "caliber," your enjoyment will ultimately hinge almost entirely on expectations. Standing alongside her previous work, this isn't lousy Lohan, but it ain't great Lohan, either. Don't come expecting "Mean Girls": Think "Freaky Friday" hung over on Saturday morning.

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