Oh, God. Perhaps I should put up the disclaimer that if John Travolta has worn out his welcome with anyone as of late, it would be me. Since his last all-out triumph in “FACE/OFF” in 1997, he has sunk to performances mediocre (“Primary Colors”), ridiculous (“The Thin Red Line”), and just plain horrible (“General’s Daughter”, “Battlefield Earth”). In the not so deft hands of director Nora Ephron (“Michæl”, You’ve Got Mail”), I was not led to expect a change in Barbarino’s cinematic direction.
…and I was right. Travolta has now morphed into the early 1970’s edition of Jerry Lewis, too “on” and convinced of his own brilliance to notice that he’s sucking all the oxygen out of a room as he walks by. He’s all spazz in the role of Russ Richards, the local weatherman in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania in 1988. Kind of, sort of based on a true story, Russ ends up in dire financial straits when a freak prolonged warm spell destroys his snowmobile dealership. When he’s forced to give up his Jaguar and his fancy country club house, respectable nice-guy Russ will suddenly consider anything to get back to where he once was. His girlfriend, the slutty, mercenary lotto girl Crystal (Lisa Kudrow) certainly won’t get in his way. Neither will old pal and strip club owner Gig (Tim Roth), who has an illicit plan for Russ at every turn.
After running through one set of bad ideas, Gig comes up with a plan for Russ and Crystal to fix the state lottery. Wacky hijinx and a few dead bodies ensue.
Unfortunately, “wacky” does not equal “funny”. The only filmmakers of recent note that could have pulled off a caper film about a bunch of idiots this completely unsympathetic are the Coen brothers, and Ephron isn’t anywhere near that ballpark. The studio and director have denied moving this film’s release from summer to fall to distance it from the stench of Travolta’s “Battlefield Earth”. They needn’t have bothered. With all of the nasty characters and their unpleasant activities, “Lucky Numbers” has a bad enough smell all its own. With all of the other flicks he could have graced his presence with, why did Tim Roth waste his time on this? Hell, why did I waste my time on this? Please, don’t waste your time on this.