Directed by Erik White. Starring Bow Wow, Brandon T. Jackson, Naturi Naughton, Loretta Devine, Ice Cube, Gbenga Akinnagbe, Keith David, Terry Crews, Leslie Jones, Mike Epps. (2010, PG-13, 99 min.)
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Aug. 27, 2010
No gamble is made by the makers of Lottery Ticket, but that doesn’t mean the film isn’t a serviceable little laugher. All-grown-up music crossover star Bow Wow heads this cast as Kevin Carson and shows he has grown into an actor who can carry a movie on his skill and good looks. Not that he has to: One thing Lottery Ticket is not lacking is a wealth of ensemble players who keep the patter lively and fresh even when the characters, dialogue, and action are not. First-time feature director White, who wrote the screenplay with first-timer Abdul Williams, offers a vast and colorful portrait of the denizens of an urban housing project (the city is unspecified), though it seems as if he might have elicited a few more hijinks from the film’s intrinsic premise. Kevin holds the winning $370 million lottery ticket, which he must hang on to over a long July Fourth weekend before claiming his money when the lottery office opens again on Tuesday. Kevin, a recent high school graduate and unjustly fired Foot Locker employee, is beset upon by all sides. Grandma (Devine), with whom he lives, can’t keep a secret, and immediately everyone is angling for a taste of the money, especially ex-con Lorenzo (Akinnagbe), a thug who’s accustomed to taking what he wants; a temptress (Jones) who wants Kevin to be her baby daddy; and the neighborhood mobster (David), who provides Kevin with an unsolicited bridge loan. Partying ensues, and so does chasing and pummeling. Kevin even begins to distrust his best pal, Benny (Jackson), and longtime friend Stacie (Naughton), the girl who everyone but Kevin knows is right for him. Ice Cube (who is also an executive producer) steps out of his usual light comedy zone to play a hermitlike old geezer with a powerful right hook. (The story of the morphing of former NWA rapper Ice Cube into a titan of family film entertainment is its own kind of urban legend.) Despite lots of solid laughs, Lottery Ticket doesn’t sustain a steady pace of jokes, and the violence wreaked by Lorenzo seems way too harsh for a comedy film. Lottery Ticket is ultimately no Friday, but that 15-year-old film’s communal vibe is clearly the model Lottery Ticket is chasing.