Lindsay Lohan's likable turn in "Just My Luck" might help mend her bad-girl rep in real life, too.
Whoever helps Lindsay Lohan choose her scripts deserves a raise. Her latest, "Just My Luck," is a two-fer, both a goofy little sugar-high of a comedy and a canny bit of image rehabilitation for the tabloid-tarnished starlet. As if to counteract reports that she's a boozy, spoiled hellion off screen, the film casts her as a lovable underdog who can't catch a break.
Lohan's character, Ashley Albright, is pampered by a magical aura of good luck. Not only does she have good looks, wealthy parents, a Fifth Avenue dream apartment and a glamorous gig at a hot PR firm, she has a Midas touch in daily life. As soon as she steps onto a rain-swept street, the downpour stops, a taxi arrives and, as she settles into the back seat, she finds a dollar bill sticking to the heel of her shoe. Director Donald Petrie ("Welcome to Mooseport") swiftly establishes that Ashley's coddling good fortune has made her a bit self-involved: She doesn't give the money to the helpful doorman who ushered her into the cab.
The film revolves around Ashley realizing that luck is a changeable thing and seeing the error of her egocentric ways. At a party for a record mogul, she smooches a plucky, cute but luckless janitor Jake Hardin (Chris Pine) who is trying to get a demo CD of his friends' band to the guest of honor. Like a static spark jumping between them, they have a reversal of fortune. He begins a winning streak that offers his buddies a shot at a contract, and her identity as an effortless winner unravels until she's a grubby young bag lady sitting alone and hungry on a freshly painted park bench. It's like "Freaky Friday," but with homelessness.
Ashley's plight brings out the good Samaritan in Jake; he lends a hand, and romance begins to bloom. She takes his old job mucking out toilets, learns some obvious life lessons about humility and gratitude, and evolves into a better girl. Thanks to a fortune teller, she knows that Jake now has her luck, and has used it better than she ever did. If their relationship deepens, they'll kiss again and he'll return to Loserville. What to do?
Somehow all this nonsense is more entertaining than it has any right to be. Lohan is a reliable light comedy performer with fine timing and delivery, and the accident-prone slapstick fits her like a Baby Gap T-shirt. Petrie piles comic humiliations on her in a way that is deeply satisfying. Who doesn't want to see the too-young, too-rich, too-pretty Lohan turned into misfortune's piñata for a while?
The only truly irritating aspect of the film is the recurring performances by McFly, an insipid Brit-boy quartet cast as Jake's rocker buddies. Long stretches of the movie feel like a numbing infomercial for the band. Whenever they're onscreen -- and they're onscreen a lot -- the film runs Straight Outta Luck.
The setup: The luckiest girl and unluckiest guy in New York have a reversal of fortunes after they kiss.
What works: Lindsay Lohan's fine comic timing and delivery.
What doesn't: Intrusive segments devoted to the Brit-boy rock band McFly.
Great line: Weeeeeeelll ... I don't know that any of them are great.
Rating: PG-13 for some brief sexual references.
Colin Covert 612-673-7186