Skydance Animation’s first movie for Apple TV+ is one of the most unfortunate kiddie fare of the streaming era.
Sam Greenfield is the unhappiest man on Earth and has been since the day he was born. It’s bad enough that Sam’s biological parents abandoned her at Summerland Home for Girls shortly after she came into this world, and that she’s about to exit the program after spending 18 years without ever finding a forever home. But a more mundane kind of disaster also seems to haunt Sam every day: this poor girl can’t make a sandwich without dropping a slice of bread on the floor jelly-side down, take a shower without knocking over a broom that locks her in the bathroom, or being filmed on synchronized video with her “little sister” Hazel without the set crashing down on top of her. Rotten Luck essentially follows Sam with the same Rube Goldberg-inspired ruthlessness with which Death stalks teenagers from the Final Destination franchise, only minus the sadistic creativity that makes these movies so much fun (or any other kind of creativity, for that matter).
Alas, the true source of Sam’s existence is due to darkness of a different kind: through no fault of her own, she has the great misfortune of being the protagonist in the first film produced by John Lassiter since the disgraced Pixar deity accepted his new job at Skydance Animation and every charming minute of “Luck” seems to betray the mutual desperation of this arrangement. As much as Sam’s fortunes seem to improve by the end of this story—however sincerely he comes to the inevitable conclusion that having someone like Hazel in his life is the ultimate stroke of serendipity—our hapless heroine will still be trapped careless, half-baked and completely unengaging “Monsters Inc.” deception for all eternity. The only silver lining to it is the lack of talking cars.
As is the case with most bad movies, luck had nothing to do with what went wrong here. As is the case only with final subsection of bad movies, though—a decidedly flawed (but still far superior) Lindsay Lohan vehicle chief among them—luck plays an unusually literal role in explaining the failure of this arm-wrestling headache.
On the one hand, it’s not down to bad luck that Lasseter hasn’t been able to package up the Pixar magic and bring it with him to his new gig. Then again, the concept of luck itself is at the heart of why this Netflix streaming fiasco is such a chore. Specifically, the misconception that anyone could care “where it comes from,” let alone be intrigued enough to take a two-hour tour of the shared Wonka-like underworld where ladybugs deliver lucky leaves to pigs who create lucky babies , which create lucky crystals for specific lucky people (i.e. “I had a good hair day” or “I stepped in dog poo”), which are then recorded into a machine that scatters them randomly throughout our universe. In all fairness to director Peggy Holmes, who was saddled with a script that lacked any trace of animated spark, I had never considered how utterly boring it would be to explore the idea of luck until I saw Sam follow a black cat named Bob ( Scottish – accented by Simon Pegg) in Wonderland where it was made.
The world of luck, or whatever it’s called, is an uninviting bore from the moment Sam arrives, and the movie has nowhere else to go once it gets there—but down and into hell. Bad luck a world that exists below. Voiced by the valiant Eva Noblezada, who keeps the cheers of a princess at a birthday party even though her character is given all the personality of a GPS, Sam is determined to stay in the Land of Fortune until he finds enough of the things for Hazel to get adopted , but there’s never a sense of weight or purpose in her quest.
The magical world of “Luck” has none of the everyday creativity that allowed “Monsters Inc.” to tickle the imagination, none of the narrative integrity that allowed “Inside Out” to match characters with emotions, and none of the wonder that allowed the bathroom in Spirited Away to look like a real place that exists just out of sight. Credited to Jonathan Aibel, Glenn Berger and Keil Murray, the film’s script is not so much arranged as a story as a parade of semi-connected stimuli. Here are some bunnies in hazmat suits, there’s a dragon voiced by Jane Fonda, now Sam has to pretend to be Latvian (don’t ask). This building looks copied from Asgard, these two are connected by high speed armor and they all seem to be made of plastic.
Bob has some convenient exposition to justify most of these things—usually something far more convoluted and less interesting than “five-year-olds have short attention spans”—but “Luck” sure raises a lot of questions for a movie that’s designed to keep kids quiet for 100 minutes, and each new detail only reinforces the suspicion that luck is too defined by its lack of internal logic to support a story so heavily dependent on explaining how it works.
Many young children may enjoy the film’s over-the-top pace and even some of the more unusual characters it throws its way (it’s hard to go wrong with Flula Borg, voicing a unicorn named Jeff), but older ones will struggle with a lack of anything to latch onto and perhaps a sense that they’ve seen a version of this story done better so many times before. Luck is a terrible idea for a movie, executed poorly and by someone who knew better. The best I can say about the finished product is that, unlike most forms of bad luck, this one is wonderfully easy to avoid altogether.
“Luck” will be available to stream on Apple TV+ starting Friday, August 5.