The story takes place in alternative America where the blacks are members of social elite, and whites are inhabitants of inner city ghettos. Louis Pinnock is a white worker in a chocolate ... See full summary »
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Winter, 1988: Harrisburg PA's celebrity weatherman, Russ Richards, is broke: he's borrowed heavily to open a snowmobile dealership, and it's still unseasonably warm. Gig, his seedy pal, advises him to run an insurance scam; when it goes awry, Russ is out another $10,000 and in trouble with Dale, a bat-wielding thug. Gig convinces Russ to rig the state lottery with the help of Crystal, a gold-digging ditz with a heart of tin. They have to find a beard to buy the ticket, and then they have to cash it. Soon, murder and various double-crosses add to Russ's nightmare. A lazy cop zeroes in. Jail is closer than riches. Will Russ have to choose between his money and his life? Written by
Working from a screenplay by Adam Resnick, director Nora Ephron diverts from her usual domain of romantic comedy to skirt the perimeter of Scorsese territory with `Lucky Numbers,' a black comedy of errors starring John Travolta and Lisa Kudrow. Travolta is T.V. weatherman Russ Richards, something of a local celebrity in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, where he also owns a snowmobile dealership. Kudrow is Crystal Latroy, who works for the same station as Richards, as the `Vanna White' of the state lottery show; she's the girl who pulls the ping-pong balls from the tube and calls out the winning numbers. In their world, everything is pretty much jake until the weather stays too good for too long; no snow means no snowmobile sales for Russ, and pretty quickly he's in it up to here, financially. With his back against the wall, the usually honest and upright Richards is coaxed into a plan that will put an end to his woes and worries. All he has to do is convince Crystal to help him rig the lottery, and they'll walk away with upward of six million dollars. And, as it usually goes with a plan for the perfect crime, it isn't long before Murphy's Law goes into effect, and things go south in a hurry. And life for Russ Richards, a guy with his own table at Denny's, just isn't what it used to be. But, like they say, when things look dark, it's probably only going to get darker... For Travolta, the character of Richards is somewhat different than any he's done before. To pull it off (which he does), he has to play down the charm and stifle his natural charisma, leaving Russ with just enough polish and ego to make him `local celebrity' believable. This is a good guy at heart, reasonably intelligent, but not exactly the brightest bulb in the overheads. And Travolta manages to put it all across admirably. He's not someone you'll easily relate to, but you've got to like this guy. He's kind of a, well, he's a goof-ball. Kudrow has a character in Crystal that is different for her as well; as the lotto girl, on the show she exhibits a somewhat dense persona; but Crystal is anything but. She's the sharp one of the bunch, externally charming when she needs to be, but tough as nails on the inside and ready to play hardball as soon as the opportunity presents itself. And Kudrow plays it all beautifully. Crystal is not someone you're readily going to embrace, but it's hard not to like her. Is it her fault there's more than a little larceny in her heart just waiting for the right circumstances to be unleashed? Ephron seems to enjoy taking these characters, who are just a shade darker than what she's used to, through their paces. It's a satirical walk on the wild side for her, and she manages to mine laughs in some of the darkest places along the way. But when you have characters with names like `Gig' (Tim Roth) and `Dale the Thug' (Michael Rapaport), you're going to get some chuckles no matter what, especially when one of them is wielding a baseball bat for all the wrong reasons. The supporting cast includes Ed O'Neill (Dick), Michael Moore (Walter), Michael Weston (Larry), and, in a small, but highly effective and hilarious role, Bill Pullman (Lakewood). This is a funny movie, though not uproariously so; things happen that you will laugh at in spite of yourself, while at other times there are moments that are genuinely side-splitting hilarious (one in particular, near the end, that involves an eighteen-wheeler). This may not be Ephron's crowning achievement cinematically, but nevertheless, `Lucky Numbers' is entertaining and good for some laughs. For Ephron, it's definitely the road less traveled; but in the end, it's a trip worth taking with her. I rate this one 7/10.
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