It’s generally a sad day when you win a lottery (see “Lucky,” Jeffrey Blitz’s documentary on the subject, shown at Sundance this year), more so when you consider Americans waste over $60 billion (yes, that’s a “b”) for this form of entertainment. [Confession: I spend nothing on scratch offs, Pick Six, or other flashy tickets in this obsessive racket.] By comparison, the movie business took in a mere $10 billion last year. After the Warner Bros. release “Lottery Ticket” arrives to try and write a winner’s check in box office dollars, dire consequences will arise as the collision of both forms of diversion. The result is a horrid failure to amuse, a film looking for humor in the poor, lost souls who end up spinning out of control as they climb a mountain of greed. Even a fast-talking reverend (Mike Epps in very weird makeup/wardrobe) envisions a oversized, gaudy sanctuary for his small obedient flock. All this for a bad laugh? What the filmmakers take for lighthearted frivolity tossed amongst some boorish people, instead comes across as an enterprise filled with crass humor, empty plot holes, and a too easy progressive conclusion.
“Lottery Ticket” sports a well known (although occasionally unrecognizable) black cast headlined by Bow Wow as Kevin Carson, a young lad who lives with his grandmother (Loretta Devine) in the projects. When he’s not working at the Foot Locker or hanging with his friend Benny (Brandon T. Jackson), he’s daydreaming of a career designing shoes. His room resembles an outlet store for his employer. There’s also the demure yet determined girl next door (or maybe down the street), Stacie (Naturi Naughton), whose torch for Kevin is blinded by their friendship. When Stacie provides to Kevin what turns out to be the winning numbers in a $370 million payoff, nothing but trouble follows. Kevin can’t turn in the ticket until the lottery board office opens after a long July 4th weekend. His attempt to keep the prize secret fails and all the neighborhood “friends” are soon smothering him with over-compelling attention and a shopping list to match. One of the local jailbait gals, oblivious to Kevin’s drool the day before, now wants to have his baby. The rage-filled Lorenzo (Gbenga Akinnagbe), a recently released felon who can squeeze a basketball to death, wants in on the action, gets Kevin fired, and forces Kevin and Benny to seek solace in the arms of Sweet Tee (Keith David), a local godfather. The gangster showers the boys with a hundred thousand dollar “loan” until the ticket can get cashed. Do they refuse the money on moral grounds? Do they spend like there’s no recession? Does Kevin screw up his best friendships?
There’s a beating or two and a mysterious hermit (Ice Cube, also a producer) who provides some here-he-comes-to-save-the-day bravado when Kevin, gangster, and felon meet in a round-robin event. Someone’s private organs get squeezed into a falsetto and when the dust settles, all the avarice has evaporated, the bad guys apparently gone and forgotten (by screenwriter Adbul Williams, at least) and the neighborhood on the yellow-brick road to socialist wonderland. Video wunderkind Erik White makes a flat first feature. Cast-wise, I’d say Naturi Naughton is the best of the bunch. She was also in the remake of “Fame,” where I also singled out her talents in that lame retread.
If given the opportunity to see “Lottery Ticket” again (once was enough!), I’d break down… and buy some lottery tickets instead.