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 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Tuesday, July 29, 2014 - Edition No 908 

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LUCKY NUMBERS

SYNOPSIS:
Local TV celebrity and weatherman Russ Richards (John Travolta) is facing financial ruin in his snowmobile dealership during the warmest of winters. He turns to his old pal and shady club owner Gig (Tim Roth) for help, whose illegal suggestions require the assistance of Dale "The Thug" (Michael Rapaport). Integral to the get-rich-quick scheme, is sexy lotto ball girl Crystal Latroy (Lisa Kudrow), with whom Russ and TV general manager Dick Simmons (Ed O'Neill) are both sleeping (not at the same time). But lucky numbers cause complications of their own…

"Nora Ephron has hit the jackpot with Lucky Numbers, a frivolous, fun and fanciful farce with plenty of fabulous fandangle. This is escapism at its most light hearted and the delights arise from unlikely situations which progressively get more and more fantastic. What I like about the film is that there are no pretensions; it's just a very funny film with lots of laughs, while the sleek, slick cast is as good as it gets. The characters all send themselves up beautifully: John Travolta's tv weatherman Russ Richards has a severe overdose of media manic ego, while genuinely believing himself to be an exemplary upstanding citizen with a conscience. Lisa Kudrow's feisty, dizzy blonde with loose morals creates new yardsticks for blonde jokes, using her considerable feminine assets to get exactly what she wants. As for Tim Roth, the sleezy strip club-owning hood ('hiring a thug is like a visit to the podiatrist'), he is as cool as a chilled marguerita on crushed ice. Add Married with Children's Ed O'Neill as the dry tv executive boss; Michael Rapaport as Dale 'The Thug' (high and low on anti-depressants); Bill Pullman as the lazy copy who is looking for a cop out; and you have a wonderful team whose comic talents are zipping with high energy. The lines are relentless – they're fast and funny. We anticipate the delicious, crazy situations and get twice the payoff. Tap your toes ad hope your lucky number comes up, Lucky Numbers is fresh nonsense for the comedy hungry."
Louise Keller

"Nora Ephron specialises in toxic romantic comedies (such as You've Got Mail) crammed with horrible whimsy, like artificially flavored desserts smothered in fake whipped cream. Lucky Numbers is slightly more bearable than her other films, because at least it's openly unpleasant: still processed sludge, but without the added sugar. It's a late entry in the cycle of 'black comedies' derived from Tarantino and the Coen brothers, based on the joke of combining murder and mayhem with everyday chitchat. In between bouts of violence, we see the characters telling bad jokes or eating takeaway food - suggesting that both aspects of their lives are equally banal. The closest thing Ephron has to a stylistic trademark is her taste for retro pop songs, here used ironically to give an effect of lipsmacking cynicism: a comic murder sequence bounces along to the rhythm of 'Mack The Knife.' The film is meant to be sordid, but it's also meant to be a hearty romp. However, it's hard to care much about what will happen to the characters when they're all treated with identical sniggering contempt. John Travolta and Lisa Kudrow are both wonderful comic actors, but even they are unable to make Russ and Crystal into likeable or interesting people. Travolta's obnoxious weatherman swaggers round like a pampered middle-aged version of Rupert Pupkin from The King Of Comedy, flashing cheesy grins and gladhanding his adoring public: the satire is meant to be aimed at tacky small-town broadcasting, but it feels more like displaced self-hatred. Russ is mocked because he wants to be a big-time game show host, but is that any more ridiculous than wanting to make commercial Hollywood movies? This kind of snide, joyless nihilism is a central trend in recent US pop culture, and viewers seem to accept it, presumably because it mirrors their own alienation: there's something familiar and finally soothing about such a calculated display of bad faith and automatic disgust."
Jake Wilson



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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 1
Mixed: 0

LUCKY NUMBERS (M)
(US)

CAST: John Travolta, Lisa Kudrow, Tim Roth, Ed O'Neill, Michael Rapaport

DIRECTOR: Nora Ephron

PRODUCER: Sean Daniel, Nora Ephron, Jonathan D. Krane, Andrew Lazar

SCRIPT: Adam Resnick

CINEMATOGRAPHER: John Lindley

EDITOR: Barry Malkin

MUSIC: George Fenton

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Dan Davis

RUNNING TIME: 105 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: UIP

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: February 8, 2001

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Paramount Pictures

VIDEO RELEASE DATE: September 21, 2001

VIDEO RELEASE: March 8, 2002 (Sell-thru)







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