I never thought I'd see you on this side of a war. You know what I mean - lending credibility to a Zac Efron and Nicholas Sparks film. But here we are.
Sure, people watching war movies expect the characters to hold guns properly, move like real soldiers, and furrow their brows sufficiently when "shit gets real." That these details may not actually be aimed the demographic interested in this film is beside the point. When a soldier like you gets called to duty, he obeys orders.
The Lucky One opens in, of all places, Iraq, where Efron plays Marine Logan Thibault on his third tour. Fair enough. I can see the need for your expertise here. In short order, we see Thibault's unit shot up, blown up, and ambushed. That Thibault isn't included in the escalating body count is credited to a photo he found in the rubble, a photo of a beautiful woman--his "guardian angel," so to speak.
On returning to his native Colorado, Thibault, decides to seek out his angel and deliver this picture to her as some sort of not-very-well-explained healing process. I suppose I can buy that. But you lost me when he finds this woman by matching the lighthouse in the photo with a lighthouse picture he finds on Google. If I was a betting man, my first guess on seeing a lighthouse in any picture would be "vacation," not "the quaint seaside town she calls home." But help me out, is light house identification one of the core skills learned on Paris Island? I wouldn't know, as my main Marine knowledge maxed out with the introduction of Gung-Ho to G. I. Joe in 1983.
Against all odds, though, Thibault does identify that fated lighthouse and travels to Louisiana from Colorado. By foot. Now this is where your training for Efron obviously paid off. He somehow shows no ill effects from what would be a good 15-day trek. His loyal dog even accompanies him for the entire journey. Semper Fi, indeed.
But that dog's not just there to provide what counts as character development in a Sparks story (guys who like animals can't be bad, after all). No, as luck would have it, Thibault's 'angel,' Beth (Taylor Schilling), runs a dog kennel in what appears to be a giant southern mansion. This gives Thibault the perfect reason to stick around and not have to explain the actual creepy reason he's come to see her. If only Efron's character could avoid plot contrivances the way he dodged Iraqi sniper bullets.
Being an industrious Marine, though, Thibault rents a nearby place; a run down shack he sizes up in a gaze* that can mean only one thing: "I can totally fix this up in a montage."
*That gaze! You must have helped here. Efron's desperately trying to capture the thousand-yard stare of a man who's seen too many horrors. Unfortunately his interpretation comes off as more Travis Bickle than Ron Kovic.
Once the film settles in Louisiana, The Lucky One shifts into full Sparks mode. As a member of the crew, you don't need me to lay it all out for you. And since director Scott Hicks is so fond of using montages to develop even the shortest time lapses, I'll provide my own montage of Sparks-isms: the cute, moppet-haired child, the wise-cracking-but-truth-talking elder, the jealous-to-the-point-of-violence ex, sex in the falling water (an outdoor shower ably standing in for the rain here), and, of course, a sacrifice during the denouement.
Whew, I got tired just writing those out. No wonder this film needed a marine to get through all that.