Combustible Celluloid
 
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With: Bow Wow, Brandon T. Jackson, Naturi Naughton, Loretta Devine, Ice Cube, Keith David, Terry Crews, Mike Epps, Charles Q. Murphy, Bill Bellamy, Gbenga Akinnagbe, Chris Williams, Vince Green, Leslie Jones, Malieek Straughter, Jason Weaver, Teairra Mari, Faheem Najm
Written by: Abdul Williams, based on a story by Erik White, Abdul Williams
Directed by: Erik White
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sexual content, language including a drug reference, some violence and brief underage drinking
Running Time: 99
Date: 08/20/2010
IMDB

Lottery Ticket (2010)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Money Balks

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Erik White's Lottery Ticket seems to be, like last year's Next Day Air, a vague attempt to replicate the success of Ice Cube's unique Friday (1995) with a combination of laid-back and zany. It has many of the same elements: a succinct time frame, a hero that loses his job, a bully on the loose, and a potential new girlfriend. Many of these moments work, but the entire package just doesn't quite jell.

Kevin Carson (Bow Wow) lives with his grandmother (Loretta Devine) in the projects. He loves sneakers and loves his job at Foot Locker, though he dreams of opening his own store someday. He reluctantly plays a $300-plus-million lottery and unexpectedly wins. Unfortunately, he has also upset the local bully, Lorenzo (Gbenga Akinnagbe), by refusing to let him walk out of the store with some new shoes.

The ticket could be the answer to all his problems, but the ticket office is closed for the three-day July Fourth weekend, and Lorenzo is after the ticket. A local gangster (Keith David) loans Kevin some "walking around" money, as well as the use of a huge gunsel, Jimmy (Terry Crews). This allows Kevin to go on a date with a local hottie (Teairra Mari), who, even though she has dated the likes of LeBron James and Jay-Z, still lives in the projects. This date upsets Kevin's friend Stacie (Naturi Naughton), who clearly carries a torch for Kevin. Worse, Kevin and his best pal Benny (Brandon T. Jackson) have a fight when Benny offers to hold the ticket for Kevin.

In some of the movie's best scenes, Kevin takes advice from a reclusive, former boxing sparring partner, Mr. Washington (Ice Cube, in age makeup). Cube effortlessly becomes the center of the movie with his potent screen presence. Likewise, this movie knows how to use the formidable Crews, who looks like a thug but is really a gifted comedian; he's much better here than in last week's The Expendables. Devine is delightful as the grandmother, and character actor Keith David is always welcome.

But director White, who makes his feature debut after a career in music videos, can't quite get the balance right. The humor is relaxed and not frantic, much like Friday, but the dramatic moments come on a bit too strong, such as the love scenes, and the fight scene between the friends. Other scenes just feel mistimed, or too long. And, unlike the bully character in Friday, Lorenzo comes across as a bit too evil, and almost superhuman in his power to torment. He doesn't feel a part of the neighborhood.

That's mainly what is missing from Lottery Ticket, a sense of community, as well as a sense of time and place. There's very little to indicate the heat or atmosphere of the Fourth of July. The main pleasures come in the form of that collection of strong, veteran character actors, which is nothing to sneeze at, but a little tightening and focusing could have provided them with a good movie as well.

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