Lottery Ticket begins with the kind of plot that mad-cap comedies are made of: a whole lot of money appears out of thin air and a group of people will do anything to get their hands on it. It’s a formula which has worked for some and not at all for others. Lottery ticket falls into the not at all category.
Bow Wow plays Kevin Carson, a kid growing up in the projects with his grandmother. Spending his days working at the local Foot Locker and hanging out with his friends Benny (Brandon T. Jackson) and Stacie (Naturi Naughton), he dreams of one day owning his own shoe design company. Kevin buys a lottery ticket on a whim, and he discovers he’s won $370 million. The problem? It’s the July 4th weekend and the lottery office is closed for three days. Kevin must wait. While he waits, word gets out about his new found fortune and everyone in the neighborhood wants a piece, from the reverend at the local church (Mike Epps), to the local gangster (Keith David). The biggest threat to Kevin’s newfound wealth, however, is a hardcore thug named Lorenzo (Gbenga Akinnagbe), who has it in for him even before he’s a winner.
Lottery Ticket’s relationship with its audience amounts to pandering, and that’s putting it nicely. Stated bluntly, the movie’s a series of stereotypes. There’s the ever-present grandiose preacher (Epps), the just-released-from-prison thug (Akinnagbe), the chatter-mouth gossip (Charlie Murphy), and the God-fearing grandmother (Loretta Devine). And that’s just scratching the surface. The movie’s lead is a shoe-obsessed teenager with no prospects or interest in furthering his education. If it weren’t for a best friend character, who encourages Kevin to do the right thing with his money, and the level-headed female friend played by Naughton, it would be impossible to find any message here beyond the benefits of greed and bullying.
Yet even that message is all but lost by the end of the film. The notion of giving back to the community is an important one, a worthwhile endeavor. At one point in the film a character goes out of his way to say there are many who rise up from terrible upbringings and, while they talk about it, they don’t take any action. But there’s comedy to be had and it’s never really a centerpiece of the story. And though there were many things Kevin could have done with his money, Lottery Ticket settles for fixing one thing and letting him take off.
Though they’re only paying lip service to the movie’s community-minded message, it’s Brandon T. Jackson’s performance that gives the movie a pulse. As the fast-talking moral center, he provides the Lottery Ticket’s only laughs without turning into a shallow puddle. His is one of only a few characters that isn’t consumed by lecherous want and as a result ends up as the film’s only likeable figures. Bad though it is, Lottery Ticket would be unbearable without him. As it is, at least it’s not Soul Plane.
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