June 18th, 2021
STARRING: JACOB TREMBLAY, JACK DYLAN GRAZER, MAYA RUDOLPH, EMMA BERMAN, JIM GAFFIGAN
DIRECTED BY: ENRICO CASAROSA
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 3 STARS (Out of 4)
Pixar movies don’t take breaks, they just reload the machine, and deliver award winning animated cinema. Soul took home an Oscar this past year- it would not have been my pick- but it seems like Pixar should just expect to get the gold every year. They are on the top of the animation mountain and with their 24th installment- Luca, they keep the winning streak going, in a fresh getaway to a seaside town in Italy, and an adorable companionship between two sea creature kids. It’s strange to write that a kids story is about a pair of sea monsters, living in their own underwater universe, but everything about Luca works, in a delightful story about conquering fears and new friendships. Luca is another Pixar winner. What? You expected anything else?
We meet Luca (Jacob Tremblay) in his cozy little cove, herding sheep-fish outside his family home, with mother Daniela (Maya Rudolph) running the home, and father Lorenzo (Jim Gaffigan) bringing home the meals. This is a cozy cave, with a center rock for dinner, while grandma (Sandy Martin) rests on the side, but interjects herself to the conversation. “I’ve never been to the surface” exclaims the energetic and curious Luca, but his mother is quick to tell him various unfounded reasons why they never go to the surface. But Luca is lonely and when he starts finding various surface people things, such as clocks, bottles, and lamps, he swims a bit farther, and then he’s suddenly pulled above the surface by Alberto (Jack Dylan Grazer). And for Luca, everything in his life after that moment has changed.
It’s quickly revealed Alberto is also part sea monster, but through the magic of…well magic, the fish monsters change from their amphibian-like selves to human form. Instantly, Alberto and Luca connect, where Luca is seeing a world he never knew existed, introduced to him by someone that has made the surface layer his home. The boys bond over thrills of diving from cliffs, the stars up above, and their shared true love of Vespa scooters. It’s a world that Luca never wants to leave, but it’s something his parents would never approve of, and when they discover he’s been sneaking off, he runs away with Alberto to the seaside town to blend in. While there they meet Giulia (Emma Berman), the adventurous young girl with hopes of winning a big town triathlon, which involves riding a bicycle uphill, eating delicious bowls of pasta, and finishing with a vespa ride. The trio bond together with hopes to win the race but the surface level is a reality that can’t last forever and Luca has to decide where he wants to be.
On the surface, Luca is similar to other Pixar films, most recently Onward had the journey of kids going outside their comfort zone, as did Toy Story 2, and The Good Dinosaur. But at its core, Luca is a gorgeous tribute to friendships and how important they truly are. Director Enrico Casarosa, and the screenplay by Jesse Andrews and Mike Jones, has the heart and soul of Studio Ghibli and Laika animated pictures. There’s a great concept of the small town people, tight knit and together, Giulia, her father, and a scene stealing cat, welcome Luca and Alberto into their homes, creating a comfy situation that reminds us about the comfort of family such as Miyazaki’s Ponyo did. While the visuals shine like gorgeous watercolor paintings, bursting with life, and energy that we’ve seen in Laika’s The Boxtrolls, and ParaNorman. Pixar is stealing from the other animated greats and that’s a smart thing to do.
Is it top tier Pixar? I find it hard to crack the Wall-E’s and Up’s of these films, but I found myself appreciating Luca long after it ended. This feels original and fresh compared to the other Pixar films. Soul was too much of a piggyback off Inside Out and lord knows we don’t need more sequels to Cars or Monsters Inc. Luca is wonderful animated cinema, with just enough drips of fantasy, and heart to make audiences feel emotions of joy inside. Luca is an absolute delight and easily the most adorable fish monster around. Take a dive with Luca, it’s a great big splash.
LUCA PREMIERES ON DISNEY+ THIS FRIDAY JUNE 18TH.
Written by: Leo Brady