This “Lottery” Not a Winner
By Roxana Hadadi
Nearly everything in “Lottery Ticket” is expected. The outcome is obvious, the romantic relationships are trite, the dialogue is silly. There’s no subtlety. There are no metaphors. And yet, even with all those flaws, it’s a somewhat funny 99 minutes that will keep you laughing throughout.
You know, when you’re not rolling your eyes about how you were right all along.
The film – which counts rapper-turned-actor Ice Cube as one of its executive producers – is heavy on the kind of humor that needs no explanation or extensive thought. Instead, it follows the same formula as most of Ice Cube’s projects, like the “BarberShop” films and “Are We There Yet?” series: Easy jokes about race, black culture and modern topics like how much money Jay-Z makes and whether gold-digging is an actual profession. It’s not necessarily the type of film you’ll want to take younger children to, but for teenagers, this is all standard fare that’s been explored (more gracefully) in lots of other films. For example, the neighborhood is charming but a trap; the girls are hot but conniving; and money is the easy way out of all problems. It’s materialism, baby, and it’s being dished out to your kids like candy.
The film starts off by introducing us to Kevin (rapper Bow Wow), a recent high-school graduate who doesn’t have enough money to fulfill his dream of going to design school. Instead, he works at a mall Foot Locker and lives with his grandmother (Loretta DeVine), a religious woman who dotes on him and hopes that he’ll end up with his best friend Stacie (Naturi Naughton). But Kevin and his other best friend Benny (Brandon T. Jackson) are more interested in salivating over neighborhood hottie Nikki (Teairra Mari), whose tight, short outfits would give any mom a headache, and are too busy avoiding baddie Lorenzo (Gbenga Akinnagbe), who recently got out of prison.
An undershirt-wearing bully who says he’ll cuddle up next to his foes at night and “squeeze” the life out of them, Lorenzo immediately threatens Kevin with a beatdown if the teen doesn’t hook him and his friends up with three new pairs of Nike Air Jordans each – for free. But when Kevin refuses to allow Lorenzo and his friends to steal the shoes and lands Lorenzo back in jail, he ends up on the baddie’s to-do list – and that’s all before the lottery ticket.
Yes, of course, the subject of the film itself. It’s a scorching Fourth of July weekend, and the lottery payout has reached $370 million. Frustrated over getting in trouble with Lorenzo and losing his job because his bosses thought he was bringing too much danger to the store, Kevin decides to go against his judgment that the lottery is “designed to keep poor people poor” and buy a ticket from Junior’s (T-Pain) convenience store on the way home. And, luckily for him, Kevin wins – or, so it seems.
Because with Lorenzo after him, the neighborhood clamoring for a piece of the money and Sweet Tee (Keith David), the “godfather of the projects,” trying to befriend him, Kevin finds himself pulled in a variety of directions and confused about what to do with the money. Should he date Nikki, get back at his old bosses or do something to better his community? Kevin just can’t figure it out.
That’s kind of the problem with “Lottery Ticket,” too. Though the film is obviously meant to be a family comedy, it strays early and often, throwing in a serious scene here and there to add weight to a script that just can’t handle it. From lifelong friends Kevin and Benny sparring over the money, with Bow Wow and Jackson getting in each other’s faces and cursing readily, or Kevin’s interactions with Mr. Washington (Ice Cube), the neighborhood Boo Radley who turns out to be an ex-boxer who never really made it, the parts of the movie that actually call on the cast to show any non-goofy emotion collapse. And that’s often Bow Wow’s fault – his babyface can’t cut it, and Jackson and Ice Cube often overpower him with their own alternately fiery and measured performances.
And the cursing in the spat between Kevin and Benny isn’t the only PG-13 material in the film: There’s lots of four-letter words and the n-word; discussion of women’s body parts and various dirty jokes; a few sex scenes after just one date, with talk of whether to use a condom; and some scenes of people being beat up, with one exceptionally painful one where a man’s testicles are crushed. On top of that, there are also some themes that just seem distasteful, like how Kevin abandons all ideas of college once he wins the lottery – money is the final solution, and there’s no thought given to bettering oneself through any other means.
So while “Lottery Ticket” has its fair share of fun and games, it’ll leave you with nothing more than a ticket stub. And unfortunately, yours won’t be worth $370 million.
Roxana Hadadi last reviewed “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.”
Also out this week: “Vampires Suck.” Read our review.