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Thanks to Lucky Numbers, I can respect Nora Ephron again. Sort of. Always a fan of her essays but slightly sickened by the down-your-throat romanticism of films such as Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail, I had since stopped paying attention to projects labeled with the Ephron moniker—Lucky Numbers being no exception. Not to say that the movie is very good, but—and I’m not sure what this says about me—sprinkle some thugs, a couple of bodies, and a little profanity into what promises to be a feel-good comedy, and you’re a friend of mine. Lucky Numbers tells the story of Russ Richards (John Travolta), a celebrated meteorologist in dismal Harrisburg, Pa., whose money troubles compel him to follow the nontraditional financial advice of seedy pal Gig (Tim Roth). When an insurance-fraud scheme goes awry and leaves him with a new debt to Dale the Thug (Michael Rapaport, a reliable one-trick pony), Russ becomes truly desperate: Taking advantage of his position at a local television station as well as his relationship with trashy Lotto-ball girl Crystal (Lisa Kudrow), Russ decides to rig the state lottery. Because none of the people who end up involved in the scam are the sharpest knife in the drawer, circumstances quickly turn dire, and that’s when you forget that you’re watching an Ephron movie. Kudrow, who yells suggestions like “Put a motor on it!” to horse-driving Amish, is the ironic bright spot of the film, giving the greedy-turned-murderous Crystal a haughty but understandable I’m-so-much-better-than-this-place attitude. Travolta’s whiny, aw-shucks desperation gets tiresome really quickly, however, and even the admirable bit players—Roth, Rapaport, and Bill Pullman as Lakewood, an easily distracted, Fargo-esque cop—aren’t enough to salvage the film from the annoyance of Russ’ boobery. The movie is best when it’s being bad—Lakewood’s fascination with the dancers in Gig’s strip club (“They seem like Albany girls!”) is a highlight—but Lucky Numbers is still a long two hours. —Tricia Olszewski