Luca is a summer movie that is so sweet, and heartwarming, it could melt your ice cream as you watch it. Directed by Enrico Casarosa, Luca is Disney-Pixar’s only film with a 2021 release, and the tentpole feature will likely have no problem supporting the studio’s name until the next release. The film has consistently been compared to Ghibli films, and rightly so. The film is visually beautiful, colorful, and follows its smaller cast of characters closely through their contained environment. Luca is sweet, exciting, and easily showcases just what makes a summer movie special.
When he accidentally comes across another boy’s haul of “human stuff” from the “land monsters”, Luca (Jacob Tremblay) follows Alberto (Jack Dylan Grazer) to the surface, where he transforms into a human for the first time. When Alberto, clearly experienced in the sea monster to human transition, asks if this is Luca’s first time, heresponds “Of course it is! I’m a good kid!”. Despite his initial fear, Luca continues to go to the surface and strikes a fast friendship with Alberto. Upon this discovery, Luca’s parents try to send him away to live with his uncle in the deep ocean. Luca, horrified, flees to the surface. He tells Alberto that he doesn’t know what to do, and knows that his parents will come to look for him, leading Alberto to suggest that his parents won’t look for him in the human town. When they reach the town, they are confronted by the town bully and rescued by Giulia (Emma Berman). Upon their introduction to the town, Portorosso, they discover that a town staple is hunting sea monsters. They also discover that there is an annual race, the Portorosso cup, where the pair can enter to win prize money that they can use to buy a Vespa, and travel the world.
Luca’s story is simple and easy to digest, but that isn’t to say it’s elementary. The story is well-paced, and never lingers for long in one moment despite taking place in the same setting for the entirety of the film. An upside of the single setting is that Portorosso is a fun and colorful town, leaving room for adorable character-environment interactions, such as Luca’s parents looking for him as a human by finding creative ways to get kids wet, to determine if the child is their sea monster son. And that cheerful, fun, and creative approach is seen in every aspect of the movie. Including one-off characters such as Luca’s uncle, a deep-sea fish that is partially see-through; so the audience watches his heart beat as he talks. In the very beginning of the movie, we see Luca attending to his shepherding duties, and the little fish start bleating like goats, which led to a five-minute laughing fit from the 16-year-old who was watching the movie beside me.
The only downside to the story was how it felt a little too much like a fusion between The Little Mermaid and Finding Nemo. The combination of a fish-child taking a leap into the unknown, followed by their parents racing after them made the movie feel less like an original story and more so like someone had made a Venn diagram of the two plots, throwing a dart right in the overlapping bullseye.
But, that being said, I loved it. I really loved it.
The characters have incredibly sweet relationships with one another. As Luca’s friend throughout the movie, Alberto proved to be a uniquely emotionally aware comic relief character, but was still aptly believable as the child he clearly is. As Luca learns more about the world around him, his goals and interests change, which understandably causes tensions with Alberto, and propels the film into its secondary conflict. Luca also does a magnificent job shaping Luca’s parents (Maya Rudolph and Jim Gaffigan). At times, they do feel like the cookie-cutter Pixar parents, even uttering the cursed “we know what’s best you” sentiment. But, despite that, the characters are sweet and given their own moments as they, too, reach the human town and transform into humans. As the couple hilariously looks for their son, there are both amusing and touching moments between them that show that the parents of the protagonist aren’t solely obstacles to overcome.
Of course, as is with most Disney movies, there’s a moral tucked in there. In Luca, the reveal (if you can call it that) isn’t stated until the last few minutes of the story, and even then, it’s gracefully tacked on to the ending rather than weaved too deeply into the story. And it’s a sweet one, if sometimes overused.
With Luca, the simpler story easily maintained the lighter tone that was the cherry on top of what made this movie great. In the best terms, this movie expertly conveyed how it feels to be a kid in the summer, making mischief at the least and getting into trouble at worst. It felt like meeting a new kid at the beach and being their best friend before you had to part ways, or racing down your friend’s dock before crashing into the water. It was a movie that was all about summer fun, and that’s exactly what it gave you.
This article was written by a guest contributor