"Money don't change you. It changes the people around you."
OK, admittedly, if you've seen "Barbershop" or "Friday," you'll already know pretty much what 2010's "Lottery Ticket" is all about. But that doesn't stop the film from being enjoyable in its own right, any more than seeing one Western or one romance or one action movie stops a person from enjoying another good one in the same genre. "Lottery Ticket" takes a modest idea and runs with it, sometimes literally, the cast overcoming the limitations of its stereotyped characters and story line.
When I first glanced at the Blu-ray case, I admit I did not look forward to watching the film. It looked like another "life-in-the-hood" comedy, probably R-rated, with a cast of rappers and comics, a director (Erik White) of music videos, and the usual raunchiness, sex, violent action, and off-color gags found in so many other so-called comedies these days. The movie proved me wrong. It gets a PG-13 rating for some mild violence, brief underage drinking, and a few naughty words. Otherwise, the film is an old-fashioned fairy tale, a morality fable, actually, that may be superficial and predictable but has its heart in the right place with its anti-drug, anti-casual sex, and anti-greed messages. More important, it's filled with likable, personable, often eccentric characters who pull the whole thing off with an affable appeal. When I finished watching the movie, I had the feeling I'd seen it all before, yet I was glad I'd watched it. Think of it as a favorite TV show that you look forward to seeing again in reruns.
What I didn't find in "Lottery Ticket," however, were any really big laughs. For me, it wasn't that sort of movie, providing an abundance of small smiles rather than any laugh-out-loud moments. Of course, comedy is a funny thing, and what makes one person laugh may make another person grimace. "Lottery Ticket" is more of a cordial, affectionate film that relies on affable characterizations rather than a film that goes for a barrel of belly laughs.
Anyway, the movie follows a story line you can easily predict. The main character is a young man, Kevin Carson (Bow Wow), recently graduated from high school, living with his grandmother (Loretta Devine), and now working at a Foot Locker shoe store. It's summer vacation, and all his friends are out of school as well, giving them an opportunity to hang out together in the projects where they live. That's when Kevin, with no ambitions beyond acquiring a pair of $5,000 athletic shoes, buys a winning lottery ticket worth $370,000,000, and his life changes forever.
The first problem he faces is cashing in the ticket. You see, it's the weekend before the Fourth of July, and the lottery office won't open for three days. He's got to hang onto the ticket until then, and all the while his family, friends, and enemies are on him about it, some celebrating his newfound gain, even more of them wanting something from him. You never know how many friends you have until they know how much you're worth. Even Kevin's best friend, Benny (Brandon T. Jackson), sees dollar signs in his eyes.
Well, you can anticipate a mile in advance where all of this is going. The potential money not only goes to the heads of Kevin's family and friends, it goes to Kevin's head as well. Unwilling to wait a few days for the dough, he gets a $100,000 "advance" from the godfather of the projects, Sweet Tee (Keith David), a big-time gangster who assigns his right-hand man, Jimmy the Driver (Terry Crews), to look after Kevin and the loan. Meanwhile, the real antagonist of the story, a local tough named Lorenzo (Gbenga Akinnagbe), described as a "premature crack baby felon," just wants to steal the ticket from Kevin.
Along the course of events, Kevin also has relationships with the girl his Grandma wants him to marry, Stacie (Naturi Naughton), because she's "bright and goes to church"; a mysterious old hermit, Mr. Washington (Ice Cube), who hasn't been out of his basement apartment in over twenty years; the Reverend Taylor (Mike Epps), a preacher who has convinced his congregation that it's for their good that he have a church the size of the Empire State Building and a personal residence the size of the Taj Mahal; and Giovanni (Bill Bellamy), a guy from the hood who struck it rich selling a line of designer du-rags.
Despite our having to live with the lead actor's "Bow Wow" moniker (real name Shad Gregory Moss), the star and Brandon T. Jackson enjoy an easygoing, good-natured friendship, the two young men working well together and making an otherwise hackneyed romp an enjoyable experience for the viewer. And it helps that director White takes a somewhat incoherent and fragmented story and paces it well enough for us to forget its exaggerations and plot holes.
"Lottery Ticket" takes a few frenetic, misplaced turns when the villainous Lorenzo continues chasing the heroes, but, otherwise, the film remains true to its purpose: to provide a few comforting chuckles and amuse us with a few well-placed, if overly obvious, life lessons. Even though the movie's got the flimsiest of premises, it's tough not to like its congenial soul.
Warners give it their best shot with a dual-layer BD50 and a VC-1 transfer, resulting in a pretty good reproduction of the movie in its native 2.40:1 aspect ratio. Colors are natural, realistic, without being excessively bright or glossy. Black levels are solid. Definition is reasonably sharp, with detail especially good in close-ups; medium and longer shots not quite so much. Nor did I notice any obvious edge enhancement, DNR filtering, or other digital manipulation.
The lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack offers strong transient impact, quick and dynamic, with impressive deep bass. There's not a lot of surround activity involved, though, the rear and side speakers limited to a little musical ambience enhancement. Let's just say, I'd have been better inspired by the audio had it more to do than simply convey a hip-hop soundtrack.
The first extra is a series of five additional scenes totaling about five minutes. The other extras are featurettes exclusive to the Blu-ray disc. These include "Lottery Ticket: Custom Kicks," eleven minutes on the shoes worn in the film; "Junior's Guide to the Corner Store," about five minutes with actor T-Pain on a tour of the movie's neighborhood gathering place; "Everybody's In: Casting for Lottery Ticket," a little over seven minutes on the film's all-star cast; and "The Du-Rag Model," two minutes with actor Bill Bellamy and his character's headgear in the movie.
The extras conclude with ten scene selections, English and Spanish spoken languages, French and Spanish subtitles, and English captions for the hearing impaired.
"Lottery Ticket" is not a great movie by any stretch and never pretends to be. It's just a remarkably genial one. It plays like an extended episode of "The Cosby Show" set in the projects, filled with affectionate relationships, oddball characters, and appealing moral themes. Cynics may level the same criticisms against this movie they made about "The Cosby Show," that it's shallow, clichéd, sentimental, and derivative; but "The Cosby Show" made a lasting impression on audiences, and the cast of "Lottery Ticket" does the same, making up for the plot's deficiencies with an amiable charm that's hard to resist. I enjoyed it.