Lucky Numbers (2000) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

The Robbins Recipe: Groundhog Day without the humor and intelligence. Also without the groundhogs. (The Groundhog Day parallel: a comedy in which Travolta plays a TV weather forecaster in Pennsylvania)

Here's a discussion question - what star had the worst pair of theatrical releases in 2000. True, Basinger had "I Dreamed of Africa" and "Bless the Child", but Travolta was right there, matching her step by step, with "Battlefield Earth" and "Lucky Numbers".

The critic James Berardinelli began his review of this film by saying, "I am at a loss to explain John Travolta's continued popularity (or even why he has a career ... )". Whoa, you just have to stop pulling your punches, there, James. Say what's on your mind. Of course, he was pretty much spot-on, wasn't he? It's just that the rest of us have been pretending to talk to the Wizard, and Berardinelli spotted the little man behind the curtains.

Pair Travolta's sudden lack of charisma with screen writer Adam Resnick (Cabin Boy), and then imagine a studio executive approving $65 million dollars to make this movie. Frightening. Does that exec still have a job? Does it involve plus-selling Hot Apple Pies? It will take a lot of super-size upgrades to make up for the $50 million or so that they must have dropped on this baby.


I often complain that films don't have enough plot. Fortunately, this film has enough plot for every film ever made. Travolta and Lisa Kudrow work for a TV station, Travolta is in financial trouble, and they conspire to fix the lottery drawing (she's the lottery girl, he's the weather dude). Everyone else in the world finds out about it, and they all want a piece of the action. And we see every single person double-cross every other person at one time or another.

In fact, every single person in Asia wants 50% or more, so the split works out about like Bialystock and Bloom's shares in "Springtime for Hitler".

By the way, "The Producers" is now being remade as a Broadway play. Brooks is involved. Nathan Lane will take the Zero Mostel role, Matthew Broderick will take the Gene Wilder part. That, I want to see.

But I didn't want to see this unfunny movie.

DVD info from Amazon.

  • widescreen anamorphic 1.85:1

  • full-length commentary by director Nora Ephron

  • some cast interviews

The one thing that was fun was establishing the local weather reporter (Travolta) as a bit of a small-time superstar in the small market of Harrisburg, Pa. Travolta has a reserved parking place and his own private booth - at Denny's. He's even better known at Denny's than my dad, baseball legend Danny "Suits" Sparrow, who eats at Denny's every day with 366 false ID's, so he can always get his free meal. Well, technically, one of his ID's is real, the other 365 are false.

But even this funny concept was mishandled by the film's ongoing unfunny condescension to the local residents. Oh, yeah, like the people in L.A. are so much more competent. Back in the Vietnam days, Mohammed Ali once said that the Vietcong weren't so bad because none of them ever called him a nigger. You might say that the people of Harrisburg aren't so bad, because none of them were involved in creating this movie or, to my knowledge, any other one like it.

Given certain similarities to Groundhog Day, I wonder if Bill Murray could have saved this film if he had been cast in the Travolta part. It would have been worth a try. At least he knows what's is or isn't funny.

The Critics Vote

  • General consensus: one and a half stars. Ebert 2/4, Berardinelli 2/4, Apollo 38, Maltin 1.5/4.

  • Rotten Tomatoes summary. 20% positive overall, 29% from the top critics.

The People Vote ...

  • With their votes ... IMDB summary: IMDb voters score it 5.5/10, Apollo users
  • With their dollars ... a phenomenal flop. Grossed only $10 million dollars on a $65 million production budget. Was distributed to 2500 screens.
IMDb guideline: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence, about like three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, about like two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, about like two stars from the critics. Films under five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film, equivalent to about one and a half stars from the critics or less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.

Based on this description, this film is a D. I like screwball comedies, but this one has neither the humor nor the characters with whom we can relate.

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