Lost in the Reel’s video review for Luck

It’s been five years since Disney cut ties with their chief animator John Lasseter, who built Pixar from the ground up.  He is the genius behind Toy Story and Cars. As well as the executive producer of Tangled, Frozen, Zootopia and so many more classic animated features from the Mouse House.  But, in the blink of an eye, he was ousted from the company… After complaints of his inappropriate workplace behavior were publicly released.  In 2019 it was announced that he would be the new chief of animation at the recently-founded Skydance Animation, which will be releasing all of their projects through Apple TV+.  

Why is all of this important?  Because Luck is the first feature film to be released by this studio under Lasseter’s supervision.  I have been following this entire story closely, as a huge fan of animation… and being as I am not the judge or jury for Lasseter’s actions, the man is obviously a talent and his presence in the industry has been missed.  So, how has Skydance Animation’s first film Luck turned out? Well, I am sad to report that this is a charming, if totally underwhelming feature that doesn’t come close to the brilliance of Lasseter’s work at Pixar and Disney. 


Luck follows an orphan named Sam who has been plagued by bad luck her entire life.  After reaching legal age and never being adopted, she is cast out into the real world to fend for herself.  One night Sam runs in to a black cat, who leads her into a secret world where good luck and bad luck are cultivated, sorted, and released into the human world.  Our heroine strikes a deal with this black cat, to help her find a lucky penny that could possibly give her dear friend Hazel something that she never had… the chance to find a “forever family”.  But when the lines between good and bad are crossed, the fate of humanity’s luck is in the hands of a heroine with the worst luck in the world.


What I can say about this film is I really think that kids are going to love it.  There are so few G-rated movies that come out these days… For even the youngest of children in a family to enjoy. And I do believe parents will be able to rest easy when turning this on.  It’s chock-full of bright colors, frenetic action, silly hijinks, and cute characters, so I can see kids wanting to watch this over and over again.  But unlike the best animated films, many of which have been developed by Lasseter himself, there’s not a whole lot of entertainment value here for adults.


The best comparison for Luck that I can think of is the little-seen Wonder Park that came out a couple of years ago.  That movie featured some inventive animation from an up-and-coming studio and had a whimsical premise, but it substituted heart and humor with an overabundance of hyperactive energy, visual gags, and non-stop action.  Just like in Wonder Park, Luck throws so many fantastical elements at the audience… almost as if the filmmakers are trying to say… “Hey!  Look at how much imagination we have!  And all of the creativity on display!”  The thing is though, you can include all of the dragons, unicorns, leprechauns, and bunnies in hazmat suits into your movie that you want to, but it’s not going to work if there isn’t a strong foundation holding it all up.  


I had high hopes at the beginning of the film, as we are introduced to our character being thrown out into the real world to fend for herself.  I mean, nothing pulls on the heart strings in an animated film quite like an orphan with a heart of gold.  And you can feel the writers beginning to build up something special… With Sam’s relationship with Hazel, her struggling to succeed at her job and living alone for the first time. 

But everything comes crashing down the moment our protagonist sets foot into this other world.  The filmmakers are trying to do way too much. And they lose sight of their purpose as they shoehorn in all of their ideas.  It could be that I am becoming an old curmudgeon and can only relate to the more reality-based side of the story now, rather than the intangible one… who knows.  Either way, I just feel as if Luck lost its way the moment Whoopie Goldberg’s voice came out of a leprechaun.


Although Luck sports serviceable animation and some really wonderful character design… I was shocked to learn that the budget for this came in at a whopping $140 million dollars.  Though we all know this medium costs a pretty penny to produce nowadays… With a price tag like that I was expecting animation on par with what Disney is churning out, or at least something in line with what Netflix was able to accomplish with this year’s surprise gem The Sea Beastbut unfortunately Luck’s visuals lack a lot of rich detail or complexity.  Even the aforementioned Wonder Park was more aesthetically pleasing than this.  


Even the message here is a bit of a let down. Underlying themes in any family film can really elevate the material and allow it to resonate with adults in the audience on a deeper level.  So, I was ultimately disappointed that the film’s main message of… “We are in control of our own luck in life”, was a decent, if extremely obvious one.  You can tell that the writers have centered their whole film around this single point, which is a shame… because there was potential here for them to say so much more.  


Now, it might sound like I despised this film, but that’s not the case.  I do think Luck has its appeal. And for a movie you can stream at home for free with an Apple TV+ subscription, you could do a lot worse.  But this was supposed to be John Lasseter’s big comeback! And sadly this is him returning with nothing much more than a whimper.  Luckily, there are exciting things ahead for Skydance Animation… including a Brad Bird-directed passion project. So, hopefully this was just a bit of a stumbling start that will lead to much bigger and better things for the studio.

Luck will be streaming on Apple TV+ August 5th, 2022.

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