"Logan Lucky " is an easy movie to like, but maybe not love.
In his big return to film after a four-year hiatus (or retirement, if it can even be called that now), Steven Soderbergh has created a sort of cinematic bingo of his well of tricks. Heist movie? Check. Channing Tatum? Check. Not so subtle metaphors slipped in to genre stories about the state of the working class man? Check. Dopey but reliable sidekick brothers? Check, check, check.
That's not to say that "Logan Lucky" has nothing new to offer — it just feels unshakably familiar in a way that could irk some and feel like home to others.
The setting for this heist is West Virginia, where Tatum's Jimmy Logan has just been laid off from his coal mining job because one of the higher-ups spotted him walking around with a limp. Like a distant cousin to Magic Mike, who supplemented waning construction work with stripping, Jimmy Logan is another side of the American dream dashed. Once a high school football star with a promising future, Jimmy has ended up in the same place where he began, only slightly worse. He's also got a young daughter, Sadie (a precocious and adorable Farrah Mackenzie), and an ex-wife (Katie Holmes) who has traded up for a middle class husband (David Denman) and may be moving across state lines imminently.
His brother, Clyde Logan (Adam Driver) is a slow-talkin' bartender who lost one of his arms serving in Iraq, but can still make a killer martini when an arrogant NASCAR sponsor played by Seth MacFarlane challenges him. And his sister, Mellie Logan (Riley Keough), is a no-nonsense hairdresser who wears acrylics, drives a stick and has no time for try-hards like her ex-sister-in-law's new husband.
The Logans, simply, are not going anywhere anytime soon, which is why they decide to try to take something back from the institutions that have failed to share the wealth with the people who support them. Their plan? To intercept the cash flow at a big NASCAR race.
They gather up some help in an incarcerated demolition savant, Joe Bang (Daniel Craig, who is hilarious), and his knucklehead but shrewd-enough brothers Fish (Jack Quaid) and Sam (Brian Gleeson) who say things like they "know all the things there is to know about computers" while playing horseshoes with toilet seats.
Suffice it to say, this is not some verite look at the world of coal miners and NASCAR lovers, nor is it an all-out comedy a la "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby." Rather, it's an interesting combination of the two, closest, probably to Adam McKay's "The Big Short" but a lot sillier.
"Logan Lucky" throws in bits about charity health workers providing shots to the underprivileged West Virginians next to MacFarlane sporting a Rick James wig and a British accent. For all its wildness, "Magic Mike" was done with a straight face and happened to be about something more than male strippers. "Logan Lucky," despite the social consciousness, is slightly more trivial.
And unlike "Magic Mike," it never really feels like it's about the people it's about — it is all surface. You're always very keenly aware you're watching movie stars who are just playing at being hillbillies. That's not a bad thing — especially when you've got a batch of charismatic personalities hamming it up in trucker hats without condescending to their subjects.
It's a gimmick, however enjoyable, that goes on a little too long, with a few too many tangents that can't sustain the pulsating energy of, say, any of the "Ocean's" movies.
But, flaws aside, it is a darn good heist, and sure to leave you with a smile on your face. We should be glad Soderbergh is back, hopefully this time for good.
"Logan Lucky," a Bleecker Street release, is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for "language and some crude comments." Running time: 119 minutes. Two and a half stars out of four.
MPAA Definition of PG-13: Parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.
Follow AP Film Writer Lindsey Bahr on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ldbahr