At last streamers are waking up to the unique power of animation. Netflix’s The Mitchells vs The Machines was deservedly Oscar nominated this year, its recent The Sea Beast was warmly received and it’s now purchased its own animation studio. Apple TV+’s approach has been typically more gradual. It distributed the Oscar nominated Wolfwalkers from Dublin studio, Cartoon Saloon, and this week releases Luck, the first full length feature from Skydance Animation. And, like The Sea Beast, there’s more than a hint of Disney about it.
Teenager Sam (voiced by Eva Noblezada) describes herself as “the unluckiest person in the world”. But that, as well as being brought up in the care system, doesn’t stop her trying to improve things, not just for herself but for a younger friend in the children’s home. Change comes when she finds a lucky penny and, when she loses it, retrieving it is all she can think about. It’s the start of an epic journey to the Land Of Luck where, accompanied by a black cat called Bob (the voice of Simon Pegg), she sets out to change her future but, along the way, discovers the secret to what everybody knows as luck. And it’s all in the hands of a pink dragon.
Like we said, a hint of Disney. Specifically, the more contemplative and adult-orientated Inside Out (2015), which brought to life the swirl of emotions going on inside a young girl’s head. A challenging and intricate concept, full of creative potential which it explored to the hilt. Luck clearly has the same audience in mind but the idea of luck/fortune/chance/whatever you want to call it is more elusive and harder to characterise, which means that the makers have an uphill task on their hands. While it’s a film with charm, heart and warmth, it struggles to hit its target, falling back instead on familiar conventions such as leprechauns, four leaf clovers, black cats and, of course, that lucky penny.
What its fundamental idea lacks – together its surprisingly sparse portrayal of the Land Of Luck itself – the film almost completely makes up for with its characters and spirit. Pegg’s Scottish accent as Bob may be a little rough around the edges, but the animation captures his adorable feline defiance, while his adversary, The Captain (voiced by Whoopi Goldberg) is nobody’s fool, and enjoyably so. Goldberg isn’t the only legend on the voice cast list, with no less than Jane Fonda providing the elegant tones of Babe, the glamorous dragon CEO of the Land Of Luck. The Oscar-winner had a hand in creating the character, including her name, and it shows in her style, determination and her romance with the lovelorn unicorn Jeff (the voice of Flula Borg).
Luck has positive intentions and a spirit to match, but its basic idea is also its main weakness and, despite a top drawer cast, attractive animation and some pacey storytelling, it can never quite hit the mark. That all-important touch of magic is just a whisker away.
Animation, Fantasy | Cert: PG | Apple TV+ from 5 August 2022 | Dir. Peggy Holmes | The voices of Jane Fonda, Whoopi Goldberg, Simon Pegg, Eva Noblezada, Flula Borg, Lil Rel Howry, John Ratzenberger.
Watch Our exclusive video interview with Flula Borg