Luca is the latest straight to Disney+ release from Pixar, and if you’ve been missing your summer holidays abroad over this past year due to the pandemic, immersing yourself in this beautiful Italian-set animation could be just what you need.
Directed by Pixar artist and first-time director Enrico Casarosa, Luca follows a young sea monster of the same name (Jacob Tremblay), who spends his days shepherding fish from his home to a grazing area. Despite his mother (Maya Rudolph) and father’s (Jim Gaffigan) warnings, Luca longs after the boats that pass overhead and dreams of visiting the surface. One day while grazing his fish, Luca spots human artefacts on the sea bed and bumps into older boy Alberto (Jack Dylan Grazer) as he collects these items and heads to the surface, where he turns into a human. Before he realises, Luca has followed Alberto to the surface and also turns human. It appears that sea monsters can turn human when out of the water, although the slightest touch of water to their skin reveals their true scaly nature.
Luca returns to the surface every day and soon befriends Alberto, where the pair dream of buying a Vespa to bring them the freedom to travel the world. However, Luca’s parents soon discover his trips and threaten to ship him off to live with his creepy uncle Ugo (Sacha Baron Cohen). Rather than go with his uncle, Luca runs away with Alberto to the nearby town of Portorosso. They meet Giulia (Emma Berman), a young tomboy dreaming of winning the Portorosso cup – a triathlon made up of cycling, swimming and pasta eating – but who is thwarted every year by the evil Ercole (Saverio Raimondo). In a bid to get their Vespa, Luca and Alberto team up with Giulia to win the Portorosso cup, which also brings them close to Giulia’s father Massimo (Marco Barricelli) who happens to be a fisherman.
What ensues is a beautiful yet sadly predictable tale of friendship, freedom and tolerance, as the boys pursue their Vespa dreams while trying to evade both Luca’s parents and the sea monster-hating townspeople. As with all Pixar films, this is truly stunning to look at. It is so vibrant and colourful, and the town of Portorosso is so incredibly built that you feel like you’ve been transported to Italy for 2 hours. The detail that has gone into the animation, even the minutiae of the tide coming in on a beach, cannot be faulted. The plot itself is simple and again as expected with Pixar, it is incredibly sweet and heart-warming. The friendship between Luca and Alberto is reminiscent of your own childhood friendships where you became instant best friends with someone – it’s adorable to watch. And as always with Pixar, there are a few smaller details that stand out above everything – namely the fish that make sheep sounds and Massimo’s cat – and provide most of the laugh out loud humour.
Unfortunately, the story is a little predictable and lacking in originality. This has far too many similarities with other Disney films (think The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast to name but two), and Luca just doesn’t have the substance to separate itself from these more superior films. The second part of the film also suffers when Alberto’s insecurities come to light, as this pushes this into yet another unsurprising route.
Despite the predictability of the story, Luca is still a beautifully made film with a lot of heart and enough humour and entertainment to never get a dull moment.
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A contract manager moonlighting as a rather discerning film and book critic, with an almost fangirl appreciation for anything made by Christopher Nolan. When I’m not catching up on my latest read or watch, you can usually find me trying out my amateur baking skills – Bake Off here I come!