THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan
Lottery Ticket stars the rapper known as Bow Wow. (He used to be "Lil Bow Wow" but since he's not so "lil" anymore, he's dropped that part from his name.) He plays Kevin, a young man living in the projects and working at Foot Locker to earn some money and to indulge his sneaker obsession. His days are spent hanging with best friend Benny (Brandon T. Jackson) and gal pal Stacie (Naturi Naughton), while also trying to avoid a local thug, Lorenzo (played by "The Wire" co-star Gbenga Akinnagbe), who wants him to boost shoes from the store. Kevin dreams of someday starting his own sneaker company, but the opportunities for a kid in the projects seem slim.
His life changes when he buys a lottery ticket for his grandmother at the corner store and casually picks up one for himself while he's at it. Lo and behold, Kevin's ticket wins the super jackpot. However, it's the Fourth of July weekend, which means that he can't claim it for several days. Kevin tries to keep word of his winnings quiet, but when the neighborhood know-it-all (Charlie Murphy) finds out, the news gets around quick. Suddenly everyone wants a piece of Kevin: hot girls who would never give him the time of day before, friends he didn't know he had, and even a local mobster (Keith David). The pressure becomes too much for Kevin to bear, causing him to eventually seek guidance from an old recluse, Mr. Washington (Ice Cube).
The "winning the lottery" plot is as old as the hills, but it's given a slightly fresh twist in this film. Kevin learns the requisite lessons about how money alone cannot buy happiness, but he also comes to realize that his winnings can potentially make the projects a brighter place by providing heretofore-unavailable hope. Director Erik White and writer Abdul Williams largely avoid the most egregious movie stereotypes of the projects, instead painting something more realistic, and then filling the movie with characters just like Kevin, who have hopes and dreams but seemingly not the means to reach them. Kevin's transformation is interesting to watch, as he gradually discovers that he can bring a little optimism to a place where there isn't much to go around.
Bow Wow is a really charismatic actor. Like Will Smith, he's multi-talented, able to mix comedy with more weighty material, and possesses a natural presence on screen. He carries Lottery Ticket on his shoulders, suggesting a potentially big career in the movies. The supporting cast consists of equally talented actors and actresses, all of whom are very effective in their roles. That includes Ice Cube, who plays against type as a man much older than he himself is, and largely makes us forget that fact.
There are certainly things to admire about Lottery Ticket, yet there's also one thing that keeps it from being as strong a film as it might otherwise have been, and that is an inconsistent tone. There are moments that feel authentic and smart, but sometimes they are followed up with bits of silly broad comedy or heavy-handed melodrama that feel less relatable. The story doesn't need these things. Kevin's journey to enlightenment is compelling enough, and the delightful cast is certainly capable of conveying the emotions necessary to drive the point home. We don't need silly chase scenes, or goofy music montages, or the folly of a stereotypically money-obsessed preacher (played by Mike Epps).
So, bottom line: the cast is terrific and the basic premise is pleasing, but the wavering tone robs Lottery Ticket of some of its power. Not a bad film, yet also not one that lives up to its full potential. Makes for a decent DVD rental, though.
( 1/2 out of four)
Lottery Ticket is available on DVD or in a Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack starting November 16. Look for it also on demand through digital cable, satellite TV, and select game consoles. It is available to buy through digital download from digital movie retailers.
There are some bonus features included with the Blu-Ray, starting with "Custom Kicks," a Bow Wow-hosted look at the role of sneakers both in the movie and in hip-hop culture at large. This amusing ode to footwear concludes with Bow Wow taking us on a tour of his own personal sneaker collection.
"Junior's Guide to the Corner Store" is hosted by rapper T-Pain, whose character runs such a store in the film. Here, the social significance of corner stores in inner city neighborhoods is discussed and analyzed. Several cast members joke about the need for bulletproof windows.
"Everybody's In" is a casting documentary, exploring how such a fine ensemble was brought together. "The Du-Rag Model" has actor Bill Bellamy joking about his character, who is a narcissistic wearer of the hair accessory. Finally, there are several deleted scenes, which offer nothing substantial.
A digital copy of Lottery Ticket is included with the combo pack.
Lottery Ticket is rated PG-13 for sexual content, language including a drug reference, some violence and brief underage drinking. The running time is 1 hour and 35 minutes.