Lucky Break

“Lucky Break” is about convicts scheming to sneak out of prison by putting on an inmate-produced musical as a distraction. It is from the director of “The Full Monty,” so it ought to be full of wacky characters and delightful plot twists. Instead, it is trite and simple, with situations culled from 50 years of sitcoms and hardly a decent laugh in the whole thing.

Jimmy (James Nesbitt) and his cohort Rudy (Lennie James) are the convicts in question, with Jimmy coming up with the plans and Rudy saying, “You’re crazy, that will never work.” You see, the prison has an old chapel that is known among inmates for being 1) the place where prison shows used to be performed, and 2) the part of the compound that is easiest to escape from. Jimmy discovers that the warden (Christopher Plummer) loves old musicals, and has in fact written one himself, based on the life of Lord Admiral Nelson. Jimmy, scheming and conniving like Bugs Bunny, recruits nearly the whole cell block as cast members.

In the meantime, Jimmy starts to fall for Annabel (Olivia Williams), the prison’s social worker and the only woman in sight for miles. Do you suppose Jimmy and Annabel will wind up playing romantic leads opposite each other in the show? Do you suppose rehearsing those scenes will spur the development of their real-life relationship?

Oh, and could there be a prison guard who is evil and mean for no reason, to serve as a thorn in everyone’s sides? Yes, and he says, in these exact words, “I don’t believe in rehabilitation” — thus ensuring his being viewed in black-and-white, with no shades of gray.

The whole movie is simplistic like that. Aside from the utterly unoriginal plot and by-the-numbers villain, there’s a weirdly tragic event that is supposed to inspire sympathy but that merely gets in the way. It’s as though the screenwriter, Ronan Bennett, had a list of things light-hearted comedies are supposed to have, and he checked off each one as he gave it some cursory representation.

James Nesbitt is a likable protagonist, and Olivia Williams is winsome enough. Indeed, all the performances are fine; that is not the problem here. Bennett and the director, Peter Cattaneo, simply haven’t put enough work into the story or script. Everything has been assembled lazily, with little apparent effort.

C- (; PG-13, some profanity.)