Just My Luck has been mercilessly targeted by its six screenwriters to tick off every possible item on the tweenie checklist. Ashley has a cool job, lots of money, wardrobes full of designer clothes and about 100 pairs of shoes. She's super-skinny but still has a rack. She actually lives in the same actual building as the actual Sarah-Jessica Actual Parker. She has two supportive, not-too-pretty, not-too-rich friends, who take her in when things get bad.
In fact, the only thing Ashley does not posess is a golden palomino pony, but then she does live forty floors up in New York and I suppose there must be some tattered scrap of reality remaining if this cynical romance is going to work. But I wish they had found room for the horse. My kingdom for the horse, if only for its (hopefully talkative, wisecracking) appearance to let all but the most impressionable members of the young audience in on the joke. That this leaden, clumsy romance is a fantasy and not a guide to life, that ‘unlucky’ and ‘poor’ are different things altogether, that behaving like an uppity Anglo Saxon epithet for ninety minutes ultimately requires, demands, comeuppance.
You ask a homeless person why they’re sleeping on the street and they won’t tell you it’s because they broke a mirror or walked under a ladder. They’ll tell you a story you probably don’t really want to hear, much like Lohan and her producers who blithely float through the routines here without so much as a nod towards humanity. Much fun is made of Jake fishing a dog-turd covered five dollar bill out of a park dustbin, the same bill that a rich man just used to wipe his dogs arse, with the scene concluding with the young dreamer being confused with a rapist because he looks a bit shabby and is out of breath. Ashley meanwhile is learning that manual work is just so much fun! There are so many things to break, it's unreal! Aren't bowling balls heavy! Wow. I know. Aren’t regular people funny, with their saggy clothes and cheap shoes and dull jobs and limited vocabulary? Don’t ‘the other half’ live like pigs? Someone should say something. Gawd!
Lohan, who isn’t all bad in general, is all bad here. She stumbles unconvincingly through the film on cheerful, toothy autopilot but it comes across as distracted and stiff. Pine gets less to do and does less with it. The direction, from Donald Petrie, is flat and unadventurous. The fact that his film also contains long sequences involving the real-life boy band McFly doesn't help. They look, and sound, like the bus home after a special-needs day-trip to the trainee hairdressers.
Later, for their big performance, the band’s name is transformed to resemble the logo of a well-known burger restaurant (same red and yellow colouring), but this incidence of product placement is notable only for its conniving subtlety in a film where coveted brands are blatantly promoted. Forget the ads before the trailers, the main feature is riddled with commercial breaks. There is never any doubt about which lifestyle Ashley preferred, rich or poor, army surplus or Dolce & Gabbana, despite her last-gasp homily about ' maybe going home to her parents to think things through'.
Even more uncomfortably, for a film rated PG and made for twelve year old girls, there's a lot of unnecessary use of the word shit, which surprised me in the context, and lots more of the same old scatological nonsense involving actual piles of faeces; the imagery fast replacing Monument Valley or the Manhattan skyline in the panoply of American cinema. Perhaps they are trying to tell us something.