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Lottery Ticket (2010) **

August 19, 2010


written by: Abdul Williams (screenplay), Abdul Williams & Erik White (story)
produced by: Mark Burg,Oren Koules, Andrew Kosove, Broderick Johnson & Ice Cube
Matt Alvarez
directed by: Erik White
rated PG-13 (for sexual content, language including a drug reference, some violence and brief underage drinking)
U.S. release date: August 20, 2010
What would you do if you won the lottery? No really, think about it. We all have thought about it. Some of us know exactly how the direct events following such a win would play out. How would all that money change your life? You might up and quit your job right away. Or you might just not tell anyone and one day walk in and stick it to “the man”. Guaranteed, if you spread the word about your win right away, you will no doubt attract everyone and anyone who ever knew you….even if they only knew you by your name. But, how do you keep your cool about something so monumental? These are just some of the many questions and problems that can be found in Warner Bros. lively urban comedy.
Kevin Carson (Bow Wow), lives in the ATL projects with his grandma (Loretta Devine), and has had a dream to design his own line of sneakers since he was a child. The recent high-school grad keeps himself inspired and close to his dream by working at a Foot Locker in the local mall.  Surrounded by two long-time friends, his energetic sidekick, Benny (Brandon T. Jackson) and Stacie (Naturi Naughton), the “just friends” girl who knows what’s best for him, Kevin longs for something beyond the stagnant lives he sees in his hood. What happens next might make Kevin reassess what exactly he longs for.
Things start to get complicated for Kevin when he gets fired from his job, winding up at the local liquor store to play his grandma’s usual lotto numbers. After being persuaded by Junior (Faheem Najm aka T-Pain), the warbling, customer-insulting store clerk, Kevin decides to play his own numbers. Well, they happen to be numbers found in a fortune cookie, but hey….we know he’s going to win. He’s the main character, after all, and the story revolves around how he deals with the repercussions of these winning numbers. Is it a blessing or a curse? Well, that all depends on who finds out and what local characters he attracts.
All this activity goes down over the start of the 4th of July weekend, making it difficult for Kevin to cash in his ticket since the downtown office is closed until after the holiday. He soon finds himself a moving target as he tries to protect not only the ticket, but also himself from any opportunists, manipulation and/or physical harm.

Unfortunately, beyond Kevin’s grandma and two friends, writer Abdul Williams does little to deliver any engaging characters that rise above the typical African-American stereotypes. The  local Godfather, Sweet Tee (Keith David), muscles his way into Kevin’s life as a “business partner”, thrusting upon him both his driver/bodyguard named Jimmy the Driver (Terry Crewes, less machismo than his role in “The Expendables”) and a bag of $100k to hold him over. An offer made clear that he shouldn’t refuse. Then there’s Nikki (Teairra Mari), the local hottie who gave Kevin her trash the day before and now wants him to be her baby daddy. Kevin also has to contend with Lorenzo (Gbenga Akinnabe), the imposing local top thug, who is determined to pummel that $370 million ticket out of him. Navigating himself around these characters isn’t easy, nor is it easy for the audience to pull themselves away from the obvious (and unnecessary) stereotypes.
None of these actors are awful, in fact, they’re quite good in their respective roles. It’s just too bad they aren’t given anything that we haven’t seen before.  But that’s not the only misstep made by first-time feature director White (coming from a music video background) makes, delivering a consistently uneven tone. There are characters here that aim a bit too high for comedy and goofiness when their potential for poignancy actually resonates stronger.
A good example of this are the characters played by two actors capable of much more than we’re given.  Mike Epps plays an effervescent preacher (groan) who whoops and hollers about how “Gawd!” wants him to live the glamorous life instead of the humble means he should profess to. It’s an annoying characterization that could’ve been a source of divine intervention or even provide a moral conscience that the community (and movie) would’ve benefitted from. Instead, we’re subjected to yet another preacher as a flamboyant hypocrite. Another role deserving a rewrite is that of the reclusive Mr. Washington (Ice Cube), played as a hermit in the hood with a storied past. Cube, sporting a kufi and slept-in jogging outfit throughout, does a good job as the eventual mentor to Kevin despite a predictable arch. But a phony old man voice and dyed-white facial hair was a silly and distracting choice. Here is another role that might have added a  poignant dimension to the movie, guided Kevin and viewers to a better place. Instead, we get the failed combination of  forced comedy and failed sincerity.
So, it’s not that the film doesn’t make you laugh or offers enjoyable entertainment. Bow Wow is charming and he and Jackson, reuniting from 2008’s “Roll Bounce”, work well together. You certainly want these two to make it through the weekend in one piece. The first half of the story starts out promising but the more unoriginal characters that fill the screen, the more disjointed the film gets. When a minor character like T-Pain’s turns out to be more humorous and interesting than any of the other supporting characters, it’s obvious someone played the wrong numbers. It’s easy to see there is potential to rise above the typical conventions of the urban comedy here but White and company just don’t go there.  




2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 6, 2011 3:48 pm

    No doubt the characters are stereotypes, but the performances are handled with a knowing wink and a great deal of fun. However, I think that if the tone wasn’t so crazy, this could have been more enjoyable. Good review, check out mine when you can!


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