Where I Watched it: Apple plus
Audio Description Provided By: Pixel Logic
Narrated By: Jackson Thesaurus
OK. So maybe the narrator’s name isn’t Jackson Thesaurus. But, I had my keyboard out, and I was typing the information quickly at the end during the credits, and while typing Pixel logic, I heard Jackson and then… Thesaurus? If that’s his name, it’s the most bad ass name in the history of badassery. I searched TheADNA for any Jackson’s and came up short. So, I’m going with what my ears told me they heard.
Luck is one of those films made by a non-Pixar studio that you can tell even without looking at the credits has somehow poached ex-Pixar talent. Here, it’s actually John Lassiter who serves as a producer. And his handprint here is obvious, as the film sets up from the very beginning to be emotionally manipulative. Sam, our leading lady, is aging out of the foster care system after never having been adopted and having forever parents. It’s really heartbreaking to think of how many times this actually happens in real life. Her best friend is a younger girl, who is also perhaps a bit too old to be adopted, but sounds adorable. All Sam wants in the entire world is for her foster sibling to get adopted. This entire film and its premise is wrapped 100% in an entirely unselfish wish.
Meanwhile, Sam has the worst luck in the world. If it can happen to Sam, it will. It’s honestly surprising she’s still alive, as it seems like bad luck is actually trying to kill her. But, after lamenting to a black cat (no, it’s not Salem) that her problems are what they are, she finds a penny and picks it up, and for a short time has good luck. Turns out, that penny was special, and the cat (Simon Pegg) can talk, and he needs it back so he can travel home to the land of Luck, where of course Sam follows, and our adventure turns into a mixture of Soul and inside Out.
Despite Sam being one of the better protagonists of the year, because it’s impossible to hate her, the film around her is extremely promising, but seems to always take the wrong step directionally. Sam is the kind of selfless person who could have formed a stronger bond with the cat, but he’s too much of a scamp. Simon Pegg’s voice work is solid, but their dynamic goes nowhere. Meanwhile, Whoopi Goldberg swoops in as a quasi-villain, though this film doesn’t really have one, and her voice acting here is awful. She’s clearly been doing too much talk show work, because there’s no character here. Gone are the days of when she was really invested in a minor hyena in The lion King, and now she just sounds like her everyday self, and like she’s still reading from the script.
And Jane Fonda wasn’t much better. I hate to say it, as a huge fan of both, but their voice acting was incredibly distracting. There was no attempt to mold to a character. it’s almost like the director told them not to act because they wanted the audience to hear an authentic Fonda or Goldberg voice. That works for John Ratzenberger, whose casting here is a giant middle finger to Pixar from Lassiter, as Ratzenberger used to be the voice you heard in every single Pixar film. Now, he’s over doing Apple’s animations. His voice you are supposed to recognize, as it feels like hot cocoa on a cold night. It’s nostalgia, and even though he’s outside the Pixar universe, it’s John Lasseter’s way of saying “I’m not dead yet.”
Unfortunately, his first major project since leaving Disney isn’t a Grand Slam. Granted, I did enjoy the film more than either Turning Red or Lightyear, the two Pixar entries, but that’s due in large part to the character of Sam, her unshakeable goodness, and the fact that you can’t root against her. Lassiter didn’t just make a film about a child hitting a certain point in their life and turning that into a metaphor, or regurgitate the 5th installment of a franchise. No, he wants you to think about these kids in foster care, who no one ever adopts. And to have some fun, he created this complex land of luck for Sam to navigate for the specific purpose of obtaining a lucky coin, not for herself, but for her former foster sister.
It’s impossible to hate, even when it doesn’t work. Even when sam sings for no reason, out of nowhere. She just bursts out into a song, and it happens, and we never talk about her talents again, or her future as a singer. It’s not relevant to the plot, and the song was awful, but it made its way awkwardly into teh film.
The audio description here does a great job of balancing all the bad luck moments Sam has to go through, while also figuring out a way to keep explaining the details of this fantasy world to us. It’s a nice audio description.
In the end, Toy Story saw Pixar burst onto the scene in a way we’ve never seen before. With his return, Lassiter produces a film that is OK, but is also unlikely to win him that Oscar I know he would love to win over Pixar. Maybe his next film with this new animation studio will get him better results.
Final Grade: B