Retro Review: Lucky Numbers

Written:
Nov. 6, 2000

John Travolta decides to play the lotto to bring his career out of neutral. Was this a good thing? Probably not.

John Travolta stars as Russ Richards, a local weatherman who is loved by his community. His local celebrity allows him to drive his precious jaguar and have a booth reserved just for him at the local “Denny’s”. 

This is all just perfect until he ventures into a “snowmobile” dealership. Being a weatherman, Russ arrogantly predicts an early winter and thus this should allow him to make a fortune at his new dealership. What really happens is that Russ predicted wrong and a warm front moves in. Russ becomes desperate and over-extended as he tries to hang on to his investment till winter.

Russ must find a quick way to generate some dough and fast. Russ consults his seedy strip club owner friend (Tim Roth) about how to get out of this jam. The partnership of Russ and the strip club owner eventually arrives on an idea about fixing the state lotto.

Russ sleeps with the “Lotto Girl” (Lisa Kudrow) and gets the “Lotto Girl” in on the heist. It’s at that point that Russ begins to fall into a spiral of problems beyond his control.

“Numbers” (which is what this film was originally called) has problems from the time we first see Travolta. The film strays way off course as it seems to meander through so many needless subplots.

One of these needless subplots involves a selfish drug addicted “thug”, played by the often stereotyped actor Michael Rappaport, is an interesting idea but so badly executed. This thug should have been more stupid and stumbling than mean and nasty.

Another needless character subplot is Kudrow’s cousin, played by documentary director Michael Moore. He is a one joke character and quickly becomes lost.

Another lost character is the bookie, played by TV’s “The West Wing’s” Michael Schiff. Why the heck was this character even necessary?

Those are just three of at least a dozen lost characters which seem to dilute the actual story. Also with these many subplots we can literally set our watches to the problems that follow in the film’s structure.

As the subplots really never go any way and a lot of pointless characters are introduced we also begin to see a struggle with the film’s identity. Is this film a “dark comedy” or just a plain comedy? Is this film trying for “Fargo” or “Nurse Betty”? Will we ever see a character who really belongs in a comedy?

I was appalled to the point that “Numbers” became deafeningly boring. This boredom seemed to subside a little with the introduction of Bill Pullman’s inept cop in the film’s final thirty minutes. Pullman for me saved this film from comparing it to Travolta’s last film “Battlefield Earth”. I really liked this character and his attitude to being a cop. They should have expanded this character’s screen time. He was original and really stood out in this film.

Aside from Pullman, I liked Tim Roth’s strip club owner. Roth has always been a joy to watch and in here you can really see that he is trying to rise above the clichid character, he is forced to play.
Travolta really needs a hit and “Numbers” isn’t it.

(2 out of 5)

So Says the Soothsayer.

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