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‘Luck,’ the first film from John Lasseter’s new studio, lacks charm


(1.5 stars)

“Luck,” the debut feature from Skydance Animation (whose parent company, Skydance Media, has a proven track record of putting out such live-action blockbusters as “Top Gun: Maverick”), could use a little good fortune. Directed by Peggy Holmes, who helmed the direct-to-video title “The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Beginning” for the now-defunct Disneytoons under John Lasseter, it’s also the first project for Lasseter since the “Toy Story” director turned studio boss took Skydance’s reins, amid controversy. (Lasseter stepped down from running Pixar and Walt Disney Animation in 2018, after publicly admitting to “missteps” in the wake of accusations that he had engaged in unwanted physical contact and commented on employees’ physical appearance. Emma Thompson, who had been attached to work on “Luck,” dropped out over objections to working with Lasseter.)

John Lasseter left Pixar after a sexual harassment scandal. He’s now heading another animation studio.

Set in the titular extraterrestrial dimension in which good luck and misfortune are manufactured and dispensed to humans randomly in a magical, factorylike setting by leprechauns, rabbits and other creatures associated with prosperity, the new movie conforms broadly to the underlying structure of such Pixar hits as “Inside Out” and “Soul,” in which human emotion and the human spirit, respectively, were personified. In other words, “Luck” takes things that are intangible — in this case, random happiness and affliction — and imagines them as palpable.

“Luck’s” protagonist, Sam (voice of Eva Noblezada), is a young-adult orphan who, as the film gets underway, is aging out of foster care after failing to find her “forever family.” Chronically unlucky, she leaves behind a small orphaned friend, Hazel (Adelynn Spoon), who Sam hopes will have better, er, luck than she did. But after finding — and then losing — a lucky penny dropped by a talking black cat named Bob (Simon Pegg), Sam follows Bob into a glowing green portal that leads to the world where happy accidents (and their opposite) are made. It’s here where most of “Luck” takes place, introducing us to Whoopi Goldberg’s leprechaun supervisor of the Luck workforce, Jane Fonda’s dragon CEO and a unicorn engineer (Flula Borg) who maintains the flow of bad luck in the mirror-image underbelly of this sometimes cruel, sometimes comforting world.

Sam and Bob’s mission, which involves the pursuit of said lucky penny, isn’t terribly clear. It’s also busy and time-consuming, to no real purpose, and without the kind of clever observations about life or spot-on metaphors about how the world works behind the scenes that made “Inside Out” and “Soul” so entertaining and insightful. Plus, the CGI animation is not especially pleasant to look at, with Sam resembling a life-size Bratz doll and the other characters, in general, looking like they were produced on a 3D printer. Pardon the pun, but there’s a stiff “Soul”-lessness to the animation.

The dispiriting story — written by Kiel Murray (of Pixar’s “Cars”), with Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger (of DreamWorks’s “Kung Fu Panda”), and focusing on luck as if it were a finite commodity — could have had something surprising to say about how you make your own luck. And, while it does offer a lesson about how we are all shaped by what happens to us, good and bad, that isn’t an especially original message. It could have been an auspicious start for Skydance and Lasseter. But is it?

g. At Cinemark’s Fairfax Corner 14; also available on Apple TV Plus. Contains some poop jokes. 105 minutes.

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