The young woman at the film’s center is the blandest of all. Her name is Sam, and she’s voiced with steadfast perkiness by Eva Noblezada. Sam has bounced between various foster homes and orphanages her whole life in hopes of finding her forever family; now, at 18, she has aged out of the system and must live alone in a tiny apartment in her generically quaint town. Not that the script from Kiel Murray, Jonathan Aibel, and Glenn Berger is even the slightest bit interested in this young woman’s interior life, but how does Sam feel about this prospect? How does she feel about never having been adopted? It’s hard to be interested in how the story will shape her if we have no clue who she is at the start.
Life on her own is an even more of a daunting task for Sam than it would be for the average person, though, because she’s plagued by perpetual bad luck. This is her signature trait. We know this because her plucky young pal at the orphanage, Hazel (Adelynn Spoon), announces: “You sure have bad luck, Sam Greenfield,” when Sam turns their makeshift music video shoot (to Madonna’s “Lucky Star,” of course) into a fiasco. She’s clumsy, she drops stuff, she gets trapped in the bathroom, she can’t make the toaster work. A job at the neighborhood crafts store (where Lil Rel Howery provides the voice of her boss) provides further opportunities for chaos, but now they involve glitter, ribbons, and cacti. It’s all depressingly predictable.
But no matter the challenge or setback, Sam is sunny and upbeat. This is also depressingly predictable. Watching her stumble and bumble cheerfully through life makes you wish she’d let loose with an actual emotion from time to time. The film’s young viewers certainly could relate to such volatility.
Things start to look up, though, when a snarky black cat with a shiny penny accidentally leads her through a portal to the Land of Luck. Similar to the factory in “Monsters, Inc.”—the rare glimmer of Lasseter’s influence here—this is the secret place where leprechauns manufacture nuggets of good luck for random delivery worldwide: everything from finding good parking to falling in love. Characters stand around explaining the mechanics of this place to each other in scene after scene; you’ll still need a flow chart to understand it all.