Lucky Numbers is a 2000 comedy film directed by Nora Ephron. The screenplay by Adam Resnick was inspired by the 1980 Pennsylvania Lottery scandal. It is the only film Ephron directed without also writing the screenplay.

Lucky Numbers
Lucky Numbers film poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byNora Ephron
Produced by
Written byAdam Resnick
Music byGeorge Fenton
CinematographyJohn Lindley
Edited byBarry Malkin
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • October 27, 2000 (2000-10-27)
Running time
105 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$63 million[1]
Box office$10,890,222[1]


Russ Richards (John Travolta), the weatherman for a Harrisburg, Pennsylvania television station, is revered as a local celebrity by his viewers, and fame affords him such perks as a reserved parking spot and his own booth at Denny's, where an omelet bears his name. His eternally optimistic demeanor conceals the fact his snowmobile dealership is on the verge of bankruptcy due to an unusually warm winter.

His friend Gig (Tim Roth), a shady strip club owner, suggests an insurance scam will free Russ of his financial problems, but when the scheme fails to pay off, Russ finds himself even deeper in debt and the target of a hitman named Dale (Michael Rapaport). Gig then proposes Russ rig the Pennsylvania Lottery with the help of his amoral girlfriend Crystal Latroy (Lisa Kudrow), a ditzy model who pulls and announces the winning numbers on television, and her oddball cousin Walter (Michael Moore), who will pose as the owner of the lucky ticket.

Their plan works, but before the $6.4 million jackpot can be claimed, everything begins to unravel. First, Walter gets greedy, refuses to hand the winning ticket over to his cousin and Crystal's physical confrontation triggers Walter's ultimately fatal asthma attack. Sleazy station manager Dick Simmons (Ed O'Neill), who also is sleeping with Crystal, tries to blackmail her and Russ when he discovers what they have done, and others who have uncovered what appears to be the worst kept secret in town demand their share as well.

Mayhem and murder ensue, prompting lazy detectives Lakewood (Bill Pullman) and Chambers (Daryl Mitchell) to initiate an investigation they hope will not be too taxing. Russ decides to sell the ticket to Dick for $100,000 to get clear of the debt he owes to Dale. Crystal is irate, and she immediately seduces Dick to get back into her share of the winnings. Dale breaks into Dick's house and tries to rob the ticket from him, but the police arrive, and Lakewood ends up killing him.

On his way home, Lakewood comes across Russ who has jackknifed and overturned an 18-wheeler as he tries to unload his snowmobile inventory on another dealer. Fearing Lakewood has come to arrest him, Russ flees with his $100,000 on a snowmobile but crashes into a tree. At the hospital, Lakewood gives him a ticket for operating the snowmobile without a license and explains what happened to Dick and Dale. Russ goes to Dick's hospital room and steals the lottery ticket back. He gives it to Wendy the waitress from Denny's (Maria Bamford) and moves to Florida where he becomes a successful host of a gameshow called "Lucky Numbers".



Lucky Numbers
Soundtrack album by
Various Artists
ReleasedOctober 24, 2000
LabelAtlantic Records
ProducerGeorge Fenton[2]
Track listing[3]
  1. "Light of Day" - Joan Jett and the Blackhearts
  2. "Obsession" - Animotion
  3. "Right Place, Wrong Time" - Dr. John
  4. "Easy Money" - Rickie Lee Jones
  5. "Heaven's on Fire" - Kiss
  6. "Rapture" - Blondie
  7. "Freeze-Frame" - The J. Geils Band
  8. "Love is the Drug" - Grace Jones
  9. "We Are the Champions" - Queen
  10. "My Way" - Jimmy Roselli
  11. "My Big Reward" - Joan Jett and the Blackhearts
  12. "Lucky Numbers" - George Fenton


Box officeEdit

The film, based on a $63 million budget, only grossed $10,890,222.[1]

Critical receptionEdit

Lucky Numbers earned negative reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a rating of 22% based on 96 reviews. The site's consensus states: "Nora Ephron's attempt at dark comedy is an uneven product, both in terms of the direction and the acting. The characters are unlikable to the point where you don't care what happens to them, and Ephron condescends to the material."[4] On Metacritic it has a score of 31 out of 100 based on reviews from 30 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews".[5] Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film a grade F.[6]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times noted the film "tells too much story at not enough energy. It should have been cut back and cranked up. Instead, it keeps introducing new characters until the plot becomes a juggling act just when it should be a sprint. And there's another problem: Is it intended as a comedy, or not? I ask because there are funny things in it, and then gruesome things, sad things and brutal things. Quentin Tarantino was able to cover that spread in Pulp Fiction. But Nora Ephron . . . doesn't find a way . . . So much depends on tone in a movie. Either you find the right one and stick with it, or you're in trouble (unless, like Tarantino, you really know what you're doing). If we're supposed to like these people, then there's a point beyond which they should not go in their villainy. If we're not, then the scenes where they're nice should have more irony . . . By the end of the film, we're less entertained than relieved. Lots of stuff happened, and much of it might have been interesting in a different kind of film. Here we got the curious sense that the characters are racing around Harrisburg breathlessly trying to keep up with the plot."[7]

Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle observed, "As both a writer and a director, Ephron has specialized in sentiment mixed with wiseguy banter - a combination that sometimes works but just as often succeeds only in being both cloying and irritating. In Lucky Numbers . . . [Ephron] is suddenly liberated, and she guides her talented cast toward performances that are playful and yet comically precise . . . It's a bit of fluff that, all the same, is a gentle commentary on human nature . . . Mainly it's just a showcase for a lot of gifted comic actors to show their stuff - and for Travolta to go from complacency to wide-eyed panic, hitting all points in between."[8]

Michael O'Sullivan of The Washington Post said, "Although Travolta gets top billing, Kudrow is the film's true manic engine, and her ability to carry off perky amorality propels the preposterous plot forward through numerous twists and setbacks . . . Her co-star, looking bloated and inert, appears to have settled into the role of the fall guy rather than even attempt to be an active participant. Ephron doesn't look as if she has her heart in the job either. Yes, the film is dark (literally as well as figuratively, since certain scenes are almost murky), but the director doesn't seem to want to acknowledge that the material is as cantankerous as it is. Time and time again, she keeps pulling back from the abyss just when Resnick's story lets us know that it's ready to abandon all social decency and hurl itself over the edge."[9]

Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly graded the film with a "D" and commented, "The laughs are few in this inert, ungenerous comedy because Ephron's tendency to condescend to her characters, coupled with Harrisburg-born Resnick's mocking worldview . . . makes for a queasy time." She added everyone in the cast is "ill-served by the director's rhythmless pacing, her muddy visual sense, and her insistence on reducing characters to caricatures."[10]

Awards and nominationsEdit

John Travolta's performances in this and Battlefield Earth won him the Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Actor.

DVD releaseEdit

The film was released on DVD on March 20, 2001. It is in anamorphic widescreen format with audio tracks in English and French and subtitles in English. Bonus features include an audio commentary with Nora Ephron and interviews with the cast and crew.


  1. ^ a b c "Lucky Numbers (2000)". Box Office Mojo.
  2. ^ "Lucky Numbers". 24 October 2000 – via Amazon.
  3. ^ "Lucky Numbers- Soundtrack details -".
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ Ebert, Roger. "Lucky Numbers Movie Review & Film Summary (2000)".
  8. ^ Mick LaSalle (2000-10-27). "More Than Just `Lucky' / Travolta, Kudrow lead talented cast". San Francisco Chronicle.
  9. ^ Michael O'Sullivan. " Entertainment Guide".
  10. ^ Lisa Schwarzbaum (November 3, 2000). "Lucky Numbers". Entertainment Weekly.

External linksEdit