AppleTV+ is about to release its first animated film since 2020’s Wolfwalkers. Unfortunately, Skydance Animation’s Luck isn’t quite the masterpiece that the international Cartoon Saloon and Mélusine Productions collaboration was. This computer-animated tale of a young girl in search of better luck on behalf of her foster sister has a sweet premise but gets lost along the way.
The first part of Kiel Murray’s script is promising. 18-year-old Sam (Eva Noblezada) lives in a home for girls where she serves as a surrogate big sister to the precocious Hazel (Adelynn Spoon). While Sam is aging out of the home, Hazel is collecting good luck charms in hopes that one of her weekend visits will lead to an adoption. Sam promises to try to find her a lucky penny in hopes that it’ll give Hazel confidence that she’ll find the “forever family” that Sam herself never did.
This isn’t the first animated film to take on the idea of foster care, homes for girls, or adoption (looking at you, Despicable Me), but it is notable for how it portrays someone who aged out of the system without ever getting adopted. Sam moves into her own apartment and starts working a job while taking online college classes. She doesn’t feel ready to start her new life, and while it’s a shiny, clean version of the despair that many people feel when they’re finally out on their own, it still rings true.
Sam is truly unlucky – not just in how many times she didn’t get adopted, but in her everyday life. She oversleeps on her first day at her new job, her toaster doesn’t work, and she constantly messes up at the floral shop. Despite all of this, she maintains a surprisingly good attitude, saying that she just wishes she could give good luck to Hazel. When she mysteriously becomes lucky one day, she’s suspicious until she figures out that it’s because of a coin left behind by a black cat.
The cat, named Bob (and voiced by Simon Pegg), ends up accidentally revealing to Sam that he can speak and leading her back to his portal to the Land of Luck. She discovers that both good and bad luck are actually highly regulated, with different beings in charge of their creation and distribution (but mostly just a lot of leprechauns). Unfortunately for her, Bob’s not too popular back in his homeland, which complicates their mission to get a lucky penny to bring back to Hazel.
This is where the film goes a bit downhill as the messaging gets somewhat muddled, and Sam must work with character after character to try to bring good luck back to Hazel. The film spends too much time exploring the relationship between good and bad luck, how they affect humans, and the corruption in this magical world. There are extended high jinks of the pair trying to avoid The Captain (Academy Award winner Whoopi Goldberg), the head of security who has it out for Bob. Sam is obviously disappointed to see how the Land of Luck has its own set of issues, but each problem is solved almost as soon as it arises.
The exploration of this world begins to take away from the main plot at hand, particularly when so much of it feels derivative of other animated films. The relationship between a unicorn (Flula Borg) and a dragon (voiced by none other than two-time Oscar winner Jane Fonda) seems to be a direct rip-off of the donkey and dragon relationship in Shrek. Sam eventually makes it back to the real world for a heartwarming end to the story, but the middle section drags when it should be the most interesting part. It’s also a tad too complicated for the children’s audience towards which the film seems to be geared.
Noblezada’s animated (no pun intended) vocal performance, both speaking and in her song and dance number, helps to make Sam an engaging character. Most of Noblezada’s previous work has been in theater, most notably as the lead in Hadestown on Broadway, but this role shows that she could have a promising career in voice acting as well. Only Sam and Bob get any substantial sense of personality or character development, and the film is better when it’s centered on them rather than the seemingly endless side characters.
Visually, the film is nothing spectacular though the colorful computer animation may be engaging for small children. Peggy Holmes’s direction is adequate, but the film overall feels much more like an offering for kids rather than one meant for the whole family. Its sweet lesson that your family doesn’t have to be the one you were born into is diluted with its messy messaging about luck and the amount of time it wastes in its unoriginal magical world.
Luck will be released August 5 on AppleTV+.