Director – Peggy Holmes, Screenplay – Kiel Murray, Story – Jonathan Aibel, Glenn Berger & Kiel Murray, Producers – David Eisenmann, David Ellison, Dana Goldberg, John Lasseter, Music – John Debney, Visual Effects Supervisor – Javier Romero, Directors of Animation – Javier “Bucho” Abad, Arnau Olle Lopez & Yuriko Senoo, Production Design – Fred Warter. Production Company – Skydance Animation.
Eve Noblezada (Sam), Simon Pegg (Bob), Whoopi Goldberg (Captain), Jane Fonda (Dragon), Colin O’Donoghue (Gerry), Flula Borg (Jeff the Unicorn), Lil Ray Howery (Marvin), Adelyn Spoon (Hazel), John Ratzenberger (Rootie), Grey DeLisle (Mrs Rivera)
The orphan Sam believes that she is cursed with bad luck, suffering mishaps and accidents in everything she does. After turning eighteen, she is required to leave the orphanage and moves into an apartment, at the same time taking a job at a grocery store. Sam finds a penny in the street and discovers that this changes her luck. The penny belongs to Bob, a talking cat who comes from the land of luck. Sam drops the penny down a sewer grate and then accompanies Bob back to the land of luck in an effort to retrieve it. Their efforts to do so require them to travel between the various realms of the land of luck but threatens to expose Sam’s presence in a place where humans are forbidden.
Luck was the premiere film from Skydance Animation, the offshoot of Skydance Films. Some controversy was accrued with the hiring of former Pixar head John Lasseter, also the director of Toy Story (1995) and Cars (2006), as producer and head of Skydance Animation. Lasseter was let go from his positions at Disney and Pixar in 2018 after sexual harassment allegations surfaced. Emma Thompson, who would have voiced Dragon, publicly denounced this and quit to be replaced by Jane Fonda. The film premiered on Apple TV.
The film is directed by Peggy Holmes, a former dance choreographer who had previously worked at Disney, graduating to director with films like The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Beginning (2008) and the TinkerBell films Secret of the Wings (2012) and The Pirate Fairy (2014).
Luck is the belief that random circumstances fall into being in one’s favour or against. There have been a number of works about luck, including the short-lived tv series Strange Luck (1995), or films like The Cooler (2003), Woody Allen’s Match Point (2005) and the Spanish thriller Intacto (2001). Fate and luck have been used as the basis for a romantic comedies in Serendipity (2001) and Just My Luck (2006). (I have a more detailed listing here under Films About Luck).
For all the moment it holds – Skydance Animation’s premiere feature, the controversy over the return of John Lasseter who aside from that any other considerations has undeniable talent – you wish Luck had something to it that was at least worth celebrating/defending. In actuality, is an incredibly lightweight film. A girl suffers bad luck, meets a talking cat who takes her into the land where luck is decided. Assorted adventures ensue as they try to retrieve the magical McGuffin of the penny the cat needs to travel back and forth. That and the odd song number.
This is a film that feels as though it is utterly written to formula and everything pitched down at a level so that even a two-year-old would understand what is going on. At the outset, Sam’s bad luck is overstated to the point that the film is almost hitting us over the head – in fact, it becomes more an opportunity for a series of slapstick capers where everything that can go wrong or fall apart will do so. The scenes where Sam wanders through the street causing a trail of mishap everywhere she goes reminds of the slapstick opening scene of Superman III (1983).
The bulk of the film takes place in the land of luck and involves uninspired shenanigans running from one part of the world to the other, while trying to avoid authority figures – Whoopi Goldberg’s captain, Jane Fonda as the Dragon overseer. The set-ups are eminently predictable and more often than not only exist to extrude more comic runnings around, including various sets of Rude Goldberg devices that set off cascades of more slapstick events. There’s an adorably cute orphan that needs saving. Eventually, Sam gets to make the banal realisation that life should be made up of both good and bad luck.