Following a person into fantastical alternate worlds is a common trope for animated movies, from Monsters Inc. and Coco to Soul and Inside Out. Each of these has been received well and, in a way, Skydance Animation pulls from this Disney playbook for Luck. The first movie in a deal between Skydance and Apple TV+, Luck feels familiar, but it still portrays a unique and weirdly charming world for Sam Greenworld, its main character, to explore. While short on laugh-out-loud moments, Luck is charming and whimsical, with a voice cast that brings their distinct talents to the film.
Luck follows Sam (Eva Noblezada), a girl who ages out of the foster system and is left to live her unlucky, but comfortable, life. About every possible problem imaginable manages to befall Sam, from getting injured on the job to locking herself in the bathroom with a broomstick. When Sam runs into a mysterious black cat one evening, that all changes. Sam finds a penny that grants her the luck of having a pretty normal life — until she flushes it down the toilet. When Sam finds out the black cat is actually named Bob (Simon Pegg), she follows the cat into the Land of Luck, a mysterious world populated by leprechauns, unicorns, dragons, and other mystical creatures.
The voice cast, which also includes Jane Fonda, Whoopi Goldberg, Flula Borg, and Lil Rel Howery, imbues each of their characters with a distinct personality and, by keeping its cast relatively small, Luck ensures they each get their moment. Goldberg and Fonda are, of course, natural standouts as The Captain (a leprechaun) and Babe the Dragon (the head of the Land of Luck), respectively. Noblezada, in what is one of her first major roles, also does exceedingly well portraying Sam's wonder at the Land of Luck. She even gets to sing at one point, putting on a dance number to Madonna's "Lucky Star" as a slew of rabbits shimmies next to her.
The Land of Luck (and its hilariously bureaucratic intricacies) is surely a sight to behold and, as new layers are revealed about the fantasy world, it becomes a worthy setting for the majority of the film. One detour into the basement section where bad luck is made provides for a sequence that is equal parts exciting and funny. Still, the movie is otherwise short on laughs, relying heavily on slapstick that is sure to get a giggle out of younger audiences, but may leave older viewers wanting.
With any computer-animated movie bound to draw comparisons to Pixar, Luck certainly will. The formula is apparent from the film's opening minutes (and an expectedly heartbreaking flashback), but it doesn't try to hide its indulgence. It's a formula that works and, in a time where nostalgia at the movies is at its peak, it becomes almost a comfort in its familiarity. Conversely, Luck's Irish motifs make the film feel like a holiday movie for St. Patrick's day in some ways, providing an idiosyncratic touch that is both charming and endearing. That individuality falls away as the conflict rises and gives way to an inevitable conclusion, tying everything neatly in a bow, but there's really no other way to do it.
Holding it all together is Pegg's sardonic black cat Bob and the relationship between him and Sam is about as charming as any relationship between an anthropomorphic animal and its human friend. The Land of Luck itself is also a sight to behold, combining creatures of mythology, futuristic tech, and plain fun as it sits in the clouds somewhere in the universe. Luck may not reinvent the wheel — at this point, what can? — but it does what films like this do best, bringing forth a message about family and perseverance with humor, heart, and a lot of magic.
Luck is begins streaming on Apple TV+ on August 5. The film is 105 minutes long and is rated G.