- Rated PG-13
- Buy the BD
All photos © Warner Bros.
Reviewed by David Medsker
t’s easy to get upset with the writer and director of “Lottery Ticket” for not trying hard enough to deliver a better movie, but the simple fact of the matter is: why should they? “Lottery Ticket” is exactly what its target audience wants from a ‘hood comedy; it’s mouthy, it’s sexy (Teairra Mari, wow), and it even has a surprisingly effective moment of dramatic release. Yes, the ending has all kinds of cheap resolutions, and the characters doth protest too much rather than speaking their minds…and the cranky movie critics in the audience were the only ones who cared.
High school grad Kevin Carson (Bow Wow) is trying to make a decent life in the projects while dodging the recently sprung local superthug Lorenzo (Gbenga Akinnagbe). When a run-in with Lorenzo at work costs him his job, he uses the numbers printed on a fortune cookie he had during lunch with his lifelong friend Stacie (Naturi Naughton) and plays the lottery, estimated at $370 million. Against all odds, he wins, and now the entire neighborhood is shaking him down for money. The catch is that it’s a holiday weekend, and he can’t turn in the winning ticket for three days, an eternity when it comes to eluding Lorenzo.
Here’s how this movie ends in the real world: even if Kevin is able to live long enough to cash in the ticket, Lorenzo still kills him. If Kevin manages to build enough layers to keep Lorenzo from getting to him, local “businessman” Sweet Tee (Keith David), who lends Kevin a generous advance until he can cash in the ticket, surely will, bleeding Kevin dry for the rest of his life on the exorbitant interest rate that comes with doing a deal with a gangster. None of this, of course, happens in the movie. Instead, these two very serious situations are dealt with in a rather (which is to say, ridiculously) simplistic manner. It makes you wonder if the script originally began as a serious meditation on the ills of instant fortune, only to be tweaked in production when some (ahem, white) studio suit who makes $5 million a year barked, “In this economy, no one wants to see a movie that complains about how hard it is to get rich quick. Be more funny.”
And the thing is, that imaginary suit has a point. This movie should be funny. The problem is that it should be funnier. Instead it wrings its humor from the Jim Bakker-esque preacher who wants to take Kevin’s newfound money to build a church the size of the Mall of America, or the HPOA girl on the block Nikki (the aforementioned Mari) blatantly seducing Kevin with one goal in mind. Stereotypes have their place in movies like this, but they are all that is holding this one together. Luckily, the three leads give the proceedings some heart, particularly Naughton and Jackson as Bow Wow’s closest (read: only) friends. No one else is given enough depth to matter, not even the movie’s executive producer Ice Cube as the allegedly crazy Mr. Washington, though T-Pain has an amusing supporting role as the owner of the Kwik-E-Mart where Kevin purchased his ticket.
A closer look on IMDb reveals that “Lottery Ticket” director Erik White and screenwriter Abdul Williams are both making their feature film debuts with this movie. There is a punch line sitting out there, but the other simple fact of the matter is that everyone has to start somewhere. Not everyone debuts with “Reservoir Dogs,” or “Boyz ‘n the Hood,” or “Blood Simple.” Some start with movies like “Piranha Part Two: The Spawning” (James Cameron), or “Alien³” (David Fincher). White and Williams chose to make their bones with “Lottery Ticket,” and to be honest, it was a good choice. There are no expectations on them, and if they play their cards right, things will only get better for them from here. The only question left, dear reader, is whether you’re willing to pay money to see a movie that stands to benefit the filmmakers more than it benefits you.