Directed by Peggy Holmes.
Featuring the voice talents of Eva Noblezada, Simon Pegg, Jane Fonda, Whoopi Goldberg, Colin O’Donoghue, Lil Rel Howery, Flula Borg, John Ratzenberger, Maurice J. Irvin, Jayssolitt. and Adelynn Spoon.
The curtain is pulled back on the millennia-old battle between the organizations of good luck and bad luck that secretly affects everyday lives.
Sam Greenfield (voiced by the relatively unknown Eva Noblezada, who impressed in the musician drama YellowRose) might be the unluckiest person in the world. Objects constantly fall on her, she’s always bumping into things, technology is regularly malfunctioning around her setting her day’s tasks back, and the world generally seems to be ensuring that whatever can go wrong will go wrong. She’s also on the verge of turning 18, nervously about to leave her group home and start living alone while working a standard cashier job. And while independence is always something to admire, one can’t help but wonder how the universe will continue to conspire against her, now alone.
Also present in the group home is Hazel (voiced by Adelynn Spoon), a young girl hoping to find her “forever home” through adoption. It’s something that never happened for Sam (something else to be chalked up to bad luck), but she’s also not too bothered about it anymore. A considerate and kind soul, Sam is first and foremost concerned with supporting Hazel and doing anything in her power to see the girl adopted into a wonderfully welcoming family.
While functioning as a one-joke animated feature that gets stale and corny fast (lucky might have worked better if director Peggy Holmes and the screenwriting/storyboarding team of Kiel Murray, Jonathan Aibel, and Glenn Berger had deployed the bad luck running gags with some restraint and moderation), Sam encounters a Scottish black cat named Bob (endearingly voiced by Simon Pegg) that accidentally leaves behind a coin that Sam mistakes for a penny (operating under the superstition of “find a penny, pick it up, and all day long you’ll have good luck”) while becoming enticed by some shared food. It turns out that the coin is not a penny but a literal good luck token that Bob wears inside his collar as he comes from the magical Land of Luck.
Whatever investment one had into the adoption arc and Sam adjusting to the next stage of her life is upended for a journey to this fantastical location. In a nutshell, Sam begins experiencing good luck but not before losing the coin and following Bob into a portal leading to the Land of Luck, where they strike together a deal to help one another once they retrieve the cash. Naturally, Sam will help Bob relocate the coin (if they don’t, Bob will be found out by his superiors and banished to the bad luck section of this world, giving off some heaven and hell vibes) in return for using the luck factory to manipulate the universe into allowing a meeting for Hazel with the potential adoptive family to go off swimmingly.
lucky jarringly transitions into world-building, showing off the many different areas and associated leprechaun-operated jobs within the Land of Luck. This amounts to cleaning up some of the lucky coins, returning them to storage for safekeeping, a workshop specifically for writing up good and bad luck scenarios, a Randomizer contraption comprised of good and bad luck shards working in tandem to disperse different kinds of luck into Earth, a limbo space run by an amusing German unicorn (voiced by Flula Borg), and of course, a lower-level bad luck area inhabited by goblins. At the head of the entire operation is a dragon (voiced by Jane Fonda) with a sad romantic backstory involving luck.
As Sam and Bob navigate through these areas with varying degrees of success, it’s also made aware that the latter does not like questions and is not interested in making friends. Bob also believes that if Sam weren’t always trying so hard at everything she does, maybe some of her bad luck would organically disappear. However, they bond throughout the journey, and it is typically entertaining considering the voice-acting chemistry.
The issue is that, while from an artistic design standpoint (whether it be the many tubes, rotating platforms, or floating city structure of the Land of Luck, all of which are bursting with bright greens and purples), lucky is visually engaging, the world itself depicted lacks a sense of awe. Suppose one also accounts for producer John Lasseter. In that case, lucky comes from a team that has worked on countless Pixar and DreamWorks Animation projects (the distributor here is Apple TV+, but the work comes from Skydance Animation), and the movie feels like a pale imitation of all three styles. Imagine if the imaginative worlds baked into a film like inside-out were half-baked and didn’t realize their potential for a reasonably accurate comparison of what watching lucky resembles.
However, the message of lucky is both refreshing for animated features and valuable for children and teenagers. Without giving much away, the script explores the reality that, sometimes, things not going our way builds character and potentially leads to another door, particularly one with positives and rewards behind it. The animation itself is not up to par with recent offerings from other studios, and the climactic set-pieces are mostly forgettable, but the story is worth applauding.
Sure, it somehow fails at expanding on and making us care about whether Hazel gets adopted or not. Still, the core dynamic between Sam and Bob is lively, humorous, and surrounded by enough nifty concepts (even if they don’t always pan out into something remarkable). Everything else is flat and visually boring. One could say luckyas a movie, is inside that limbo space between good luck and bad luck.
Flickering Myth Rating – Movie: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com