Sam Greenfield (Eva Noblezada) is the world’s unluckiest lass. Despite the green in her name and on her clothes, the luck of the Irish evades her — she can’t even make toast without things going jam-side down. Unfortunately for Sam, this bad luck extends to aspects more significant than ill-timed flat tires. She’s been in the foster care system her whole life, and now that she’s turned 18, she’s aged out of care and needs to navigate life on her own as an adult. While she’s come to terms with the fact that she didn’t find her forever home, she longs for her ‘little sister’ Hazel (Adelynn Spoon) to meet hers.
One day, Sam finds a lucky penny and suddenly her life is running smoothly. Realising that the clover-leafed penny is the reason for her good fortune, Sam wants to pass it to Hazel, but before she can do so, she accidentally flushes it down the toilet.
Luckily though, Sam comes across the same black cat who was around her when she first found the penny. After discovering that this isn’t any ordinary cat, Sam chases Bob (Simon Pegg), the Scottish black cat who can talk, through the streets. Sam follows Bob through a green portal that leads her right to the Land of Luck — an alternate world where good luck is rampant and protected on one plane and bad luck prevails on another. At the centre of this land is a luck randomizer that spins out good luck and bad luck at random into the human world. Sam and Bob go on a journey between the two planes to find a lucky penny for Sam to bring back to Hazel.
Highlights of Luck include fantastic vocal performances from the cast, particularly Noblezada, Pegg, Jane Fonda and Lil Rel Howery, and moments of beautiful animation (specifically Bob, who looks fantastic). It’s also great to see issues like foster care and adoption being raised in children’s films, however briefly they appeared.
Unlucky for audiences though, that’s about as good as Luck gets.
While there’s a decent premise somewhere within the film, Luck’s script is lifeless. Chock full of far too much exposition for a kid’s movie and unearned platitudes, the film lacks in humour and refinement.
Despite having limitless possibilities in creating an animated alternative world, the Land of Luck is uninspired and without creativity. Maybe because they so obviously lifted design structure and narrative from Inside Out, they wanted to distinguish themselves by being flat and dull. Luck lacks that kick of wonder and imagination animation can achieve. And because it so closely resembles better films, Luck ends up looking like a bare bones knock off Disney movie.
Speaking of Disney, I’d be remiss not to address the elephant in the room: producer and Skydance Animation’s current Head of Animation, John Lasseter. Luck is Lasseter’s first project with Skydance (previously associated with Paramount Pictures before his hiring) after being dismissed by Pixar following multiple allegations of sexual misconduct.
Emma Thompson was originally cast in Luck but following Lasseter’s Skydance appointment, she left the project and explained why in a letter to the animation house that she made available to the LA Times. The original director of the film, Alessandro Carloni, also left the project with “creative differences” given as the reason.
Lasseter’s dismissal and hire have drawn a line in the sand it would seem. Replacing Carloni in the director’s chair was Peggy Holmes, a director who worked at Disney for decades. Additionally, the script was given a re-write by Kiel Murray (screenwriter for Cars and Cars 3). And for those wondering where John Ratzenberger has been for the last four Pixar releases, turns out he’s just been waiting for Lasseter’s return to the industry.
To be clear, Lasseter’s involvement doesn’t automatically make Luck a dud. However, his hire clearly shook things up behind the scenes and Luck wasn’t made better by it.
Luck premieres on Apple TV+ August 5.