“Luca” stars Jacob Tremblay, Jack Dylan Grazer, Emma Berman, Marco Barricelli, Saverio Raimondo, Maya Rudolph, and Jim Gaffigan. Released on Disney+ on June 18, 2021, the film has two sea monsters embarking on a life-changing adventure in a seaside town.
The film featured the directorial debut of Enrico Casarosa, who directed the Pixar short “La Luna” and served as a story artist for films like “Ratatouille”, “Up”, and “Coco”. We all feel different on the outside. That’s what makes us human. Especially those two boys, whose appearances are more than what they seem. This latest film from the legendary minds of Pixar takes us from the afterlife to the Italian Riviera, where the legends of the sea monsters are true. This was supposed to premiere in theaters this month, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Disney and Pixar decided to dump it onto Disney+ at no additional cost. Although, it is set to hit theaters in international markets that don’t have the service. This marks the second Pixar film to debut on the streaming service, following “Soul” back in December. On the bright side, we don’t need to worry about paying an extra $30 to watch it as we did with “Raya” and “Cruella”. Aside from that minor issue, I was really looking forward to this one. Not just because of the Pixar brand but also its themes and inspiration towards the concept and culture. Pixar has already done wonders in making stories based on different cultures from Paris, Scotland, and Mexico, so it makes sense for the filmmakers to give Italy some animation love as well. With that said, let’s head on down to Italy and see if this is another hit for Pixar.
The film’s story takes place in the Italian Riviera between the 50s and 60s. It tells the tale of Luca Paguro (Tremblay), a teenage sea monster who lives on an undersea farm with his parents, Daniela (Rudolph) and Lorenzo Paguro (Gaffigan). He is curious about the world above the sea, even though his parents forbid him to go there. One day, he encounters another sea monster named Alberto (Grazer), who convinces Luca to explore the outside world with him. Disguised as human beings, Luca and Alberto explore the small town of Portorosso, where they meet and befriend a young girl named Giulia Marcocaldo (Berman) and her father Massimo (Barricelli). They later encounter a series of mishaps that could expose their secret identities and threaten the existence of their species. The film is a literal fish-out-of-water story that pays tribute to the Italian culture and celebrates the importance of friendship and acceptance. It explores the friendship that helps people grow and be more independent and allows them to be themselves despite their differences. Enrico Casarosa translated those themes into a subtle and charming tale about two sea monsters exploring the human world for the first time. The result is another vibrant and heartfelt hit from the Pixar dream team. Casarosa was a perfect choice to direct this film because of his inspiration, heritage, and vision and how they were incorporated into its imaginative style and storytelling. The film had a suitable amount of heart, charm, and emotion in its plot and characters to provide a sense of summer joy and wonder in its scenarios. The only issue I had with the story was that it was a bit simplistic at times, along with the fact that it borrowed some elements from “The Little Mermaid”. Compared to the other Pixar classics like “Toy Story” or even last year’s “Soul”, “Luca” is one of the more watered-down films from the animation studio, focusing more on the charm and kid-friendly fun rather than sophisticated storytelling. Aside from that, there’s still some Pixar magic swimming around in this fishy tale that’ll impress plenty of adult fans of the studio. The characters in “Luca” were highly relatable and full of life, primarily due to their solid depth and the voice cast. Jacob Tremblay did a fantastic job voicing the title character, who’s full of curiosity yet nervous about the outside world. Jack Dylan Grazer was also great as Alberto, who helps Luca face his fears, and Emma Berman made a remarkable first impression as Giulia. Maya Rudolph and Jim Gaffigan also had some amusing moments as Luca’s parents. The only character that I didn’t like was Ercole Visconti, voiced by Saverio Raimondo. Ercole is a local bully who constantly picks on Luca and the others and serves as the film’s antagonist. He was probably one of the weakest characters that Pixar has created, in my opinion. Not only was Ercole a cliched and annoying “villain”, but he also had the most obnoxious voice I have ever heard in an animated film. I mean no disrespect to Raimondo, but man, the way he talks (and acts) made me want to run him over with his own Vespa. I’m pretty sure it was intentional for them to make Ercole like this. If that’s the case, then congratulations, Pixar. You created a horrible person that I want to punch in the stomach. The film also benefited astoundingly from its animation and portrayal of its Italian environment. The animation was unique compared to the usual style from the other Pixar films, most notably the character designs that somehow resembled those from the stop-motion projects from Aardman. It’s unique in a way that perfectly captures the richness of Italy while displaying plenty of creative and detailed visuals that we’ve come to expect from Pixar. Everything about the animation was beautiful, colorful, and fresh. I also liked the musical score by Dan Romer, which helped generate a sense of authenticity in its locations.
Overall, “Luca” is a vibrant blast of charisma and emotion that’ll touch the hearts of people who appreciate the summer days. Unfortunately, it fell a bit short compared to some of the other Pixar classics regarding its story and villain. However, it still retained the same charm and imagination that the studio is known for to craft another bonafide hit for families. With its delightful voice cast, charming characters, compelling storytelling, and remarkable animation, the film is a joyful yet simple sea monster tale that signifies big things to come for first-time director Enrico Casarosa. It's worth checking out if you have Disney+ and you’re looking for something simple, fun, and heartwarming.