You know that the Iraq war has draggged on too long when Hollywood is making a jaunty road movie about returning soldiers. In The Lucky Ones, Michael Peña and Canadian sweetheart Rachel McAdams play two American soldiers who get stranded in a U.S. airport at the start of a 30-day leave, and hitch a ride in a rental van with a retiring Iraq vet played by Tim Robbins.
This amiable but shambling odyssey finds a wonky middle ground between Coming Home and Trains, Plains and Automobiles—though it feels like it secretly wants to be a Iraq vet version Y Tu Maman Tambien but is afraid to go there. It’s the kind of lazy script that makes you feel comfy and smug because you’re always a few pages ahead of what’s on screen. But I was happy to go along the ride, relishing the company of the actors.
Playing a soldier with shrapnel wound in his groin who’s not sure if he can get it up, Peña has a warm, self-possessed charm, and a knack for keeping half his performance to himself. Cast as a suburban Joe ambushed by a ruined marriage, Robbins glides through the film in a congenial stupor. But the real treat is McAdams, who plays the most wholesome/sexy working-class girl-next-door you’d ever want to have on your side in a barroom brawl. She lights up the screen with sensible beauty and rambuctious goodwill. For the record, I’ve decided I’m in hopelessly love with her (from a wholesome distance) and will happily watch anything she’s in. So much for my critical judgement.