Bill Pullman Steals LUCKY NUMBERS
What are the odds against a supporting cast member outshining megastar John Travolta and television funny lady Lisa Kudrow in any movie? Astronomical, but Bill Pullman does just that in Lucky Numbers. His amusing, low-key performance as a reluctant policeman enlivens this screwball comedy about "rigging" the Pennsylvania lottery. Travolta’s portrayal of a financially strapped weatherman and Kudrow’s work as his ditzy accomplice are fine too, but it’s Pullman who made me laugh the most. Too bad he’s in so few scenes.
Until Pullman (Lake Placid) comes on screen, Lucky Numbers is just your average crime caper flick --- entertaining, but nothing special. Travolta and Kudrow play unlikable characters drawn together by a plan to win millions through a daring, but highly illegal, scheme. As Russ Richards, a popular television personality, Travolta makes fun of his own celebrity here. Wherever Richards goes, people flock around him to have their pictures taken with him. He even has his own booth at Denny’s.
Clearly, this role suits Travolta much better than the grotesque villain of Battlefield Earth, and the charismatic actor seems to enjoy it immensely. His enthusiastic weathercasts and glad-handing manner are very funny. But Travolta also projects a dark edge to his character’s demeanor which helped me understand why Richards would go to such lengths to get the money he needs.
After watching Kudrow as the lovable Phoebe for so long in Friends, it’s strange to see her portray Crystal, a woman who stops at nothing to get what she wants. "There’s a limit to my classiness," Crystal says after killing someone. She has no conscience and almost no brains --- a deadly combination indeed. But Richards needs her. She is the "Lottery Girl," the one who pulls the numbers and announces them to the television audience. Surprisingly, Kudrow succeeds in this challenging role. Although Crystal has a few hilarious moments (especially her clumsy highlighting of lottery information for the t.v. audience), there’s a coldness in her eyes that telegraphs a complete lack of feeling for others.
Involved also in the scam are a devious strip club owner (Tim Roth), a loose-canon thug (Michael Rapaport), a lecherous station manager (Ed O’Neill), and Crystal’s hapless asthmatic cousin (Michael Moore). Unwittingly saving the day for law and order is Lakewood (Pullman), a cop trying to avoid any effort in connection with his job. Not one to bother with paperwork, he asks others on duty to fill in details of crimes he’s been assigned to cover. In addition, he calls for "back-up," no matter how routine the incident. Despite Lakewood’s faults, he’s the only sympathetic character in Lucky Numbers. Pullman’s quizzical expressions and laid-back manner won me over completely.
Director Nora Ephron (You’ve Got Mail) moves the action along nicely, except for tedious scenes between Travolta and Michael Weston, who plays an eager assistant at the weatherman’s failing snowmobile showroom. That mentoring relationship didn’t work for me, and I couldn’t understand their frenetic conversations.
None of the culprits in Lucky Numbers suffer enough for their actions. Still, there’s a very specific "crime does not pay" warning here. After seeing this movie, anyone planning to tamper with an official state lottery will think twice about it.
(Released by Paramount Pictures and rated "R" for violence, language, sexuality, and some drug use.)