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:: Lucky Numbers

The set-up is Hollywood gold. It must have been the easiest movie anyone's ever had to pitch. Just cast John Travolta as Russ Richards; a charismatic, debt-ridden weatherman who's actually dumb as a box of hammers, and dreams of being a game show host, and Lisa Kudrow as Crystal Latroy; the ditzy TV lotto girl who's sleeping with the network boss and the weatherman. Then have them both rig the Pennsylvania State lottery. Surround them with a stellar cast of many cheaper, well-known actors - those who are versatile. Have them play against type and what do you have? An absolute winner.

And it works. Why? Because Tim Roth is always brilliant, and toned down as Gig, the sleazy nightclub owner provides a brilliant manipulative laid-back foil for the two star cartoon characters. Ed O'Neill, better known as Al Bundy the moronic shoe salesman from Married With Children, is surprisingly good as Dick Simmons, the very sharp, very savvy TV station manager whose greed is only matched by his sexual appetite. The final gem in this hat-trick of supporting players is Bill Pullman, better known as the gung-ho, patriotic President who climbs into a plane to “kick ET's ass” in Independence Day couldn't be funnier as Lt. Pat Lakewood, the most bumbling, unheroic, recalcitrant policeman ever to hit the screen. If it wasn't for his sidekick Chambers (Daryl Mitchell), he'd have never left the station, let alone caught any bad guys.

The script was inspired by a real-life scam to rig the Pennsylvania State lottery that took place in 1980. Screenwriter Adam Resnick, who grew up in Harrisburg, claims that the city is known ‘as the site of the infamous three-mile island disaster’ and felt that ‘it deserved to be known for other memorable events like the infamous lottery scandal’ which is why he wrote the script. One hopes he's joking, as does the local tourist bureau. For whatever reason, he took the ball and director Nora Ephron ran with it.

The result is a big budget cute comedy with big names and big laughs. It's not too clever, like the scam itself, as effective as it needs to be. It's very sweet and at first glance, only the bad guys get killed, but once you think about it, there's not one endearing character among the major players. They’re greedy, manipulative, untrustworthy or thick. It works well though because it means you don't care how it ends-just pick a character and hope it works out for them. Kind of like the lottery itself really.