Luca - Review
Pixar's latest release is one that decides to go small instead of big, simple instead of ambitious and yet still manages to capture that recognisable magic.
JUNE 20th, 2021
Director: Enrico Casarosa | Cert: PG | Runtime: 1h 41m
s there an animation studio who faces such a high standard of expectation from audiences more than Pixar? With iconic masterpieces such as Toy Story, WALL-E, Finding Nemo, Soul, Inside Out and UP, Pixar have always maintained the unique ability of creating visually stunning films with the touching, intricate and clever storytelling to match. With such an impressive catalogue of titles, audiences have perhaps judged any new release with a higher level of expectation and their newest story Luca is no exception.
The story of a young sea monster whose inquisitive nature to explore the world above the surface takes him into an adventure of self discovery and friendship, almost feels like quintessential Disney - think The Little Mermaid but with Italian sea monsters. But this is Pixar, a studio renowned for their exploration of stories which steer clear of the arbitrary plotline, and yet Luca doesn’t really delve in that direction. For some audiences that notion will be a disappointment, yet in reality it is anything but.
What Luca does brilliantly is take a small intimate story (in comparison with most of Pixar’s other movies) and create a warm, moving and touching film which explores the complexity of acceptance, the freedom of being yourself, and the importance of friendships and what they can offer.
The friendship between Luca and a carefree, ambitious fellow sea monster Alberto is beautifully developed throughout the film. Their contrast in personalities is wonderfully brought to life through Jacob Tremblay (who voices Luca) and Jack Dylan Grazer (who voices Alberto). Add in the mix of the feisty Italian girl Guilia (voiced by Emma Berman) and this unlikely trio take on the Italian town of Portorosso with zest.
What is also noticeable about Luca, once again highlighting the movie's simplistic tones is the villain. Ercole Visconti (voiced by Saverio Raimondo) is Portorosso’s local bully and sets his sights on Luca and Alberto. It is wildly refreshing to see a villain with no redeeming qualities or redemption arc and who throughout the movie, his villainy increases in brutality. It is old age, traditional storytelling and it works wonderfully here.
The simplicity of the story arc, the intimacy of the Italian Riviera backdrop only adds to the magic of Luca, instead of hindering it. The movie consistently reminds you that bigger is not always better, and whereas the twists and turns of Pixar’s greatest stories are usually their greatest appeal, Luca’s is in the general and natural feel of the plotline.
Some may argue that the movie feels one dimensional without the usual Pixar magic, yet as the movie develops what is initially deemed a weakness genuinely becomes Luca’s greatest strength. The story moves at a reasonable pace, setting out the plot and character relations just enough to ensure their relationships develop authentically, and whilst at some points the story is a little predictable, it is still thoroughly enjoyable.
Although the plot may feel predictable at times, the animation certainly is not. To date Luca is Pixar’s most visually stunning movie. The vibrancy, liveliness and tonal textures of the ocean, and Italian town are mesmerising. In particular the transformation between sea monster Luca and human Luca is some of the most impressive animation seen in a Disney movie, let alone a Pixar one.
What Luca is, is not your traditional Pixar animation. It doesn’t necessarily push boundaries or introduce new worlds or ideas in the vein of Toy Story or Soul. For some audiences that will be a disappointment, yet it really shouldn’t be. What Luca offers is a traditional and conventional story of self discovery and what it means to be yourself, whether you’re a sea monster or not. It highlights the value of friendship and acceptance, in a world which turns a nose up at those who are different. It is fun, moving and above all else centered around bravery.
Alberto teaches Luca a saying at the beginning of their friendship; when scared or worried simply say “silencio Bruno!” What better message to teach a young audience, or any audience of any age? And it is that type of messaging which is the real magic of Pixar, that makes their movies stand out from the crowd, and in that reality - Luca is easily a Disney-Pixar masterpiece.
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