Lottery Ticket – ***
Directed by Erik White
We’ve seen many films like this one over the years. Films that are geared primarily toward black audiences. But only a handful of them transcend and cross over, and Lottery Ticket is one of those films. It’s just entertaining enough to succeed, and more importantly, by the end of the film, I found myself won over by it.
The story starts out fairly simple. Bow Wow plays Kevin Carson, a recent high school graduate who lives in a run-down apartment complex outside of Atlanta, Georgia. Although he has a few friends, and is currently working only at Foot Locker for the summer, he seems to be the only one in his complex that has his head on straight. Sadly, the day hits a low point when he is fired from his job for something that wasn’t his fault. With numbers from a fortune cookie in hand, he goes to the local liquor store and plays those numbers on a lottery ticket. It isn’t until the next morning that he has discovered that he has won the lottery, worth $370 million.
Now here is where the plot gets interesting. Trying to keep the information under wraps, he goes to the lottery office in Downtown Atlanta (with his best friend Benny (Brendan T. Jackson) in tow), only to find that it is closed for the Fourth of July weekend. Now he has three days to keep it to himself before he can claim his winnings, however, when the whole apartment complex finds out courtesy of his grandmother (Loretta Devine), everything goes crazy. The sexpot neighbor (who Kevin has had a crush on throughout high school) starts coming onto him, the entire neighborhood wants a piece of the pie, and to make matters worse, a thug named Lorenzo (Gbenga Akinnagbe), fresh out of jail, wants more than just a piece, he wants the ticket for himself.
Lottery Ticket is not exactly a laugh-out-loud film, but it gets by on the strength of its strong cast. Bow Wow by himself carries the movie with impeccable ease, and his chemistry with Brendan T. Jackson (who you might know best as Alpha Chino in Tropic Thunder) is one of the real highlights of the film. And Ice Cube’s supporting turn as the recluse neighbor is one of his better performances in quite some time. Of the supporting characters, he is the only one who feels fully developed. And yet at the same time, I think one of the reasons why the film achieves more than it does is because it has a positive message buried inside of it, and that is that money might change you, but it also changes the people around you too.
If I have any real complaints about the movie itself, there are really only two: The first one is how the film starts. Although I do realize that it is quite important to introduce the huge cast of characters, it starts out very, very slowly as a result. Thankfully, about 15 minutes in, the film picks up and starts moving at a very consistent pace. My only other complaint would be that the film is just a little more violent than I think it needs to be. There is not a lot of it but yet when there is violence, it feels just a little more extreme than it needs to be. Neither compliant fully detracts the film of its charms, for which I found plenty.
In summation, Lottery Ticket is not a great movie, but it is a pleasant enough diversion for 99 minutes. This is the kind of movie that cult movies are made of, and I could easily see this film having a cult following over time. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the film. It’s funny, pleasant, and entertaining, but more importantly, it works.
Rated PG-13, 99 minutes. Now available on DVD and Blu-Ray.