Luck is director Peggy Holmes’s fourth feature film and her first original project outside of Disney; however, this directorial achievement is overshadowed by the fact that Luck marks the return of the disgraced ex-boss of Pixar, John Lasseter, to animation. After a sizable string of sexual harassment allegations, Lasseter left Pixar and Disney with supposed remorse for his so-called “missteps.” Astonishingly, Lasseter is not only still working but was immediately swept up by Skydance Animation as an executive producer on Luck. As a result, Emma Thompson, who was previously attached to the project, made a very public exit from the film and slammed Skydance for hiring Lasseter in the first place. Though Peggy Holmes and her team of animators deserve to have Luck stand on its own two feet, Lasseter’s involvement in the film makes Pixar comparisons impossible to ignore – which reflects poorly on the film.
Skydance Animation’s first feature film, Luck, tells the story of Sam Greenfield (Eva Noblezada), an exceedingly unlucky eighteen-year-old orphan who has just moved out of her children’s home and is living independently for the first time. From dropping the keys to her new apartment down the drain to pulling down an entire shelf of glitter on herself on her first day of work, Sam cannot do anything without fate being against her. She leaves behind her younger friend Hazel, who was hoping to be adopted soon, unlike Sam, who was never able to find a family. This ordinary beginning soon takes a turn for the fantastic, as after sharing a panini with a mysterious stray Cat, Sam finds herself tumbling into the magic land of luck, and the real adventure begins.
From a distance, the animation looks identical to Pixar, but upon closer inspection, the stilted animation and lack of texture make it look more like a video game cutscene. The animation for the human characters lacks smoothness; facial expressions are without subtlety, and the animation of the mouths creates the effect of out-of-sync dialogue. Unlike some of Pixar’s recent triumphs, such as Turning Red, Luck doesn’t possess much dynamism or creativity and lacks a characterful animated style, sometimes making it visually uninspiring. Despite the strange animation of the humans in Luck, the animals and magical creatures are animated very well with a sense of fluidity and character.
The personified animals are at the centre of the majority of the comedy in the film, including adorable bunnies in hazmat suits and a particularly slick chase scene through a city involving a lucky black cat. The background art is also particularly well done; in both the New York-style city and the fantastical land of luck, a tangible world is created with attention to detail and charm – though the latter borrows heavily from the world of Inside Out. Eva Noblezada brings much life to Sam with a strong voice acting performance; other highlights of voice acting include Jane Fonda as the regal and powerful Dragon, and Whoopi Goldberg is hilarious as the Captain. Simon Pegg does well as the voice of Bob, the cat, yet the random Scottish accent he puts on feels a little forced.
Where Luck really struggles is in its pacing. It can sometimes feel sluggish with a meandering narrative and a runtime verging on an hour and three quarters. Furthermore, the premise doesn’t provide much momentum and leaves the film with an uncertain moral lesson and conclusion. The idea of luck being key to a happy and successful life isn’t made convincing enough in the narrative. Therefore, the stakes feel very low, and thus the film becomes less captivating. From the very opening of the film, the importance of luck, or the lack of it, is emphasized to such an extreme degree that it quickly becomes tiresome and disingenuous.
Though Luck might have aesthetic similarities to the work of Pixar, it is without the studio’s heartfelt and authentic emotional core. Though there is nothing wrong with having a film with children in mind for the audience, Luck’s overly simplistic and saccharine dialogue patronizes its audience and lacks a mature quality. The assumption that children cannot handle darkness is one that much of the animation industry makes. Yet, animation has been an effective medium to tackle darker themes while being appropriate for young people. Skydance missed an opportunity to tap into the market of adult-friendly animation; not only is it Pixar that makes animation suitable for both children and adults, but also Studio Ghibli and Cartoon Network, to name a few.
Luck struggles to mark its own identity away from the shadow of its shamed producer’s former workplace; it situates itself in a Pixar model of aesthetics and narrative beats, but without the character and sensitivity of the animation giants. Plot points feel contrived as it desperately attempts to move the waterworks of its viewers but simply doesn’t have the emotional weight to support itself. There are moments of humour, and creative animation, particularly in the creature design and the strong world building and the voice actors bring an energy to the film that brings it to life. Yet its weak script and poor pacing sadly leave it to be forgettable. Dancing bunnies, an eccentric German Unicorn and a host of spinning Leprechauns may bring humour, but Luck runs out on genuine substance.
Luck is streaming on Apple TV+
by Chloe Slater
Chloe (she/her) is a film fanatic and proud northerner hailing from West Yorkshire. She is currently studying an MA in Film Studies at The University of Manchester. She has an affinity for Japanese animation, fantasy films and anything that Greta Gerwig touches! Outside of her love for film, she is a big football fan, supporting Blackburn Rovers. Chloe can also be found playing guitar and bass or watching live music. Favourite films include: Spirited Away, Ladybird, Lost in Translation, Frances Ha, Portrait of a Lady on Fire and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy.