November 2, 2000

Shooting Craps

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Any movie that combines the star power of John Travolta (Pulp Fiction) and Lisa Kudrow (TV’s Friends) with the direction of Nora Ephron (Sleepless in Seattle) would seem to have potential. However, due to a lackluster plotline and a bevy of one- dimensional characters, Lucky Numbers turns out to be less than lucrative.

Travolta plays Russ Richards, a high profile TV weatherman who has squandered his income on such extravagant items as a snowmobile store (yes, it’s open year-round) and a Jaguar. Kudrow plays Crystal, an extremely ambitious model who draws the weekly lottery numbers. They, together with a strip club owner, Tim Roth (Pulp Fiction), hash out a plan to rig the lotto and take the prize money as their own. Seems like a good premise. The problem is that, from this point on, the story gets unnecessarily complicated.

After Travolta and Kudrow have successfully won the lottery, it seems as though everyone wants a piece of the loot. Even their boss, the president of the news station, attempts to blackmail the duo for half of the winnings. This throws Travolta into mental chaos. He does not want to share the money with anyone else — there is already Crystal, the strip club owner, and Dale the Thug, who requires a half million for services rendered.

Throughout the movie, it is difficult to discern who to root for. There is no clear-cut good guy. There isn’t really a bad guy either. As more and more new characters are introduced, it becomes more and more difficult to keep them all straight.

Travolta has no trouble playing the nice-guy weatherman. However, in engaging in some unethical actions, he visibly struggles to create a workable balance between his sound conscience and his all-consuming greed, thus coming off as whiny and painfully innocent. As a result, he is annoyingly inconsistent throughout the film.

In the end, Kudrow is the only consistent player. Her solution to almost any problem seems to be “kill him,” so she is definitely a bad girl and never sways in her bitchy, self-aggrandizing behavior.

Too much time is spent on concocting crazy schemes about who will attempt to screw Travolta and Kudrow out of the money next, while not enough is spent on actual character and plot development.

I cannot tell you how relieved I was to hear Travolta’s final little speech of inspiration at the end of the movie. It had a bit less than nothing to do with the actual story, but it did signal that the end was near.

The movie’s upbeat ’80s soundtrack was more entertaining than anything else; it may be the only reason to see this movie. I may actually be dumber for having sat through Lucky Numbers. And for the unlucky souls who allowed this movie to come to fruition, I hope they never go to Vegas.

Archived article by Ashley Risner