Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Opens August 20th, 2010
Starring: Bow Wow, Brandon T. Jackson, Naturi Naughton, Charles Murphy, Ice Cube (Hear my interview with Ice Cube here)
Directed by Erik White
Run Time: 1 hour 35 minutes
What would you do if you won the Lottery? This is the basic premise of "Lottery Ticket", a very funny and surprisingly touching comedy. I say "surprisingly", because the premise alone lends itself to a zany, over-the-top, comedic premise...and yes, although it does fall into these areas along the way, it also has some deeper messages included about materialism in our society, setting and achieving personal goals, and finding out who your true friends are.
The story is basically set in an "Any-Town, USA", in the projects. Young Kevin Carson (Bow Wow) is just an ordinary kid, working at Foot Locker and taking care of his Grandma (Loretta Devine). When by chance he plays the lottery, he discovers that he actually matched all of the winning numbers, scoring him a $370 million dollar jackpot. The only problem is, he discovers his winnings on a Friday, a long 4th of July weekend to be exact, and can't cash in his ticket until the following Tuesday. He is forced to try to keep his ticket a secret for those 4 days, and of course this doesn't happen. Soon the entire town knows that he is a soon-to-be millionaire, and the movie revolves around his survival as every Tom, Dick and "Sweet Tee" want a piece of the money pie.
I absolutely loved how the movie progressed. The opening credit sequence has a "man-on-the-street" interviewer asking regular folk what they would do if they were to win the lottery. We of course hear a wide-range of things...from forming charities, helping those in need, to buying a new car, and getting drunk. The movie immediately asks us, the audience, what would you do? My mind was racing before the opening credits ended.
Then as the movie starts, it slowly unfolds. We meet our main character and get a glimpse into his normal life. Then we are introduced to a series of characters, a splendid dynamic group of characters, whom we suspect will pop back into the film later. I loved how this was done too, where there is some set-up involved before the pay-off (no pun intended) eventually comes.
We have Samej (Murphy), the town gossip, who seems to know everything about everyone. There is Kevin's best friend Benny (Jackson), his close friend-that-happens-to-be-a-girl Stacie (Naughton), and a number of other interesting and funny characters, from his grandma, to a ex-convict, to a mysterious hermit. All of these introductions are different and funny, and it goes to establish this entire community of characters, who also represent a little bit of everyone.
Once the characters are brought forth and Kevin learns about his winning ticket, is when the best part of the film slowly emerges. All of these people from different walks of life react differently to Kevin's new-found status. Girls who wouldn't give him the time of day before, now want his company. Everyone seems to want in on his wealth. Even a local gangster-boss (Keith David) shows up to get close to Kevin and his money. Kevin finds out that some people don't react differently at all.
They say that falling into a large amount of money doesn't change you, it changes those around you. This movie examines this and at the same time, don't get me wrong, it is a straight-arrow comedy. The laughs come out of the situation, and the different characters reactions to these situations.
But I'd argue that money changes both you and the people around you. Kevin certainly goes through temptations as he is offered things he never dreamed of before. His relationships with those closest to him are the true heart of the film, and it makes you invest (again, no pun intended) in the story and the people. It leads to a climactic, dramatic scene between Kevin and his friend Benny towards the end of the film, that really drives home the message that you should maybe be careful what you wish for.
Late in the film, Kevin befriends a ex-boxer, Mr. Washington (Ice Cube), who acts as a mentor...kind of a Mr. Miagi-type. Although this encounter creates a lot of laughs to follow, it also is important to the messages in the film...here is a guy (Mr. Washington), who never got his shot, never had his dreams fulfilled. Kevin needs to see this, to know just how special it is that he is now in this position of wealth. He can finally make a difference, but that includes making a bit of self-sacrifice in order to use his money for a greater good.
"Lottery Ticket" may not be the funniest movie of the summer, although it does contain a number of memorable lines and characters. But it just may be one of the few comedies that really is trying to say something. It achieves this in the subtlest of ways, by not hitting you over the head with it's themes, but letting them work themselves out through the characters and a very patient, well-thought-out script. By the end, you may not know what you would do if you win the Lottery, but you will know what you should do.
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