- Directed by Peggy Holmes
- Written by Kiel Murray, Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger
- Featuring the voices of Eva Noblezada, Simon Pegg and Jane Fonda
- Classification G; 97 minutes
- Streaming on Apple TV+ starting Aug. 5
According to the beautifully rendered CGI winds of the zeitgeist, Pixar has lost its lustre. Lightyear was a box-office bust (even though I was one of the few critics who enjoyed its straight-ahead thrills), while Soul, Luca and Turning Red (also wonderful!) were deemed by parent company Disney to only be worthy of its streaming service. Perhaps Pixar’s glory days are gone – perhaps it is time for a new player to step up and tell a different, more lucrative kind of toy story (as in: Movies that exist primarily to sell merchandise). Perhaps, even, it will take an original Pixar genius, severed from the company that he practically started, to take up the cartoon throne.
Or, as Luck would have it, not.
John Lasseter, the one-time chief creative officer of Pixar/Disney Animation, who resigned in 2018 after acknowledging “missteps” that made some staff feel “disrespected and uncomfortable,” is back. As the producer for the new Apple TV+ film Luck, Lasseter is being billed as the brain behind the streamer’s push into big-budget animation – the kind of smart, slick fare that will lure subscribers and herald the arrival of a new Pixar. And for his first post-“cancellation” mission, Lasseter has recruited old and valuable friends: Luck is directed by Peggy Holmes (who worked in the now-defunct Disneytoons division), co-written by Kiel Murray (Pixar’s Cars franchise), and features the voice of Pixar’s good luck charm John Ratzenberger, who has lent his talents to every one of the company’s films up till 2020′s Onward.
But getting the gang back together and reconjuring the old Pixar magic are two very different things. Burdened with a needlessly complex conceit, flat character design, limp jokes, and a soundtrack completely absent a single ear-worm (unless you count an overreliance on Madonna’s Lucky Star), Luck feels dredged from the bottom of Pixar’s few lows (Cars comes to mind) than plucked from its many highs (Inside Out would like a word).
After opening with a compelling lead character, the young adult Sam (Eva Noblezada) who thinks of herself as the unluckiest girl in the world thanks to her status as an orphan who never found a “forever family,” Luck trips into a story of messy magic nothingness. It turns out, you see, that there are actually two worlds operating out of humanity’s immediate view: One realm that is responsible for all the good luck in the world, and the other devoted to the bad. By teaming up with one of the talking cats (Simon Pegg) charged with maintaining this balance, Sam embarks on a journey that may alter the course of reality.
Or something like that. Luck’s script is so jammed with unearned blather about “travel pennies,” “luck randomizers,” and the many other heretofore unknown intricacies of good fortune that it feels like several Pixar pitch sessions crammed into one liquid lunch. Squint during the scenes where Sam is coping with the day-to-day reality of independent life, or the moment when she first realizes that cats are in charge of our fates, and you can just barely make out that original Pixar touch: The relatable mixed with the fantastic, the cerebral cooled to a child’s POV.
But these instances arrive far too infrequently, shoved aside in favour of a hyperactive plot and animation that frustratingly alternates between the beautiful (Pegg’s cat, with its perfect fur, is a real work of art) and the ugly (Sam and her fellow humans look like rejects from cheap YouTube fodder like Cocomelon).
Luck is undoubtedly a fascinating thing to watch – just not if you’re a child. As an example of contemporary Hollywood groupthink – a case study for those curious about how quickly and easily Hollywood defaults to familiar storytellers rather than exploring more fresh, untested visions – the film is worth all four clovers. For its intended audience, though, best to quickly toggle over to Disney+.
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