Review by Sean Boelman
Set in a beautiful seaside town on the Italian Riviera, Disney and Pixarʼs “Luca” is a coming-of-age story about a boy and his newfound best friend experiencing an unforgettable summer filled with gelato, pasta and endless scooter rides. But their fun is threatened by a secret: they are sea monsters from another world. “Luca” is directed by Enrico Casarosa (“La Luna”) and produced by Andrea Warren (“Lava,” “Cars 3”). © 2021 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.
People can usually count on Disney/Pixar to release some of the greatest animated movies of the year, and even when they aren’t firing on all cylinders, they are still putting out pretty impressive work. Luca doesn’t quite have the same level of heart that made Pixar’s best films such hits, but it’s still an enjoyable and lovely ode to friendship.
The movie follows two best friends who are sea monsters trying to blend in with the human world in an attempt to have fun and buy themselves a Vespa. Like many Pixar films, the novelty here is in the concept — a sea monster coming-of-age story — rather than the arc itself, but Jesse Andrews and Mike Jones seem very content with letting their script stick to the tropes.
There are some choices in the movie that definitely seem a little misguided. The fact that a moped serves as the film’s MacGuffin makes it a bit difficult at times to take it seriously. And while the movie is clearly obsessed with anything Italian, it spends more time on the basic stuff like pasta and gelato than the more specific cultural symbols it should have explored.
Perhaps most disappointing about the film is that it doesn’t have anything particularly profound to say. Yes, the movie has messages about growing up and sticking up for your friends, which culminates in an expectedly emotional finale, but the film is missing that unique sense of poignancy that defines some of the studio’s best work.
Set in a beautiful seaside town on the Italian Riviera, Disney and Pixarʼs “Luca” is a coming-of-age story about a boy and his newfound best friend experiencing an unforgettable summer filled with gelato, pasta and endless scooter rides. But their fun is threatened by a secret: they are sea monsters from another world. “Luca” is directed by Enrico Casarosa (“La Luna”) and produced by Andrea Warren (“Lava,” “Cars 3”). © 2020 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.
The two central characters are both very likable and charming, serving as each other’s foil quite well. And the human character that they befriend is surprisingly well-written, having a fully-developed arc of her own. However, the antagonist is perhaps the worst in any Pixar flick, a manchild that is absolutely annoying any time he is on screen.
The main duo of Jacob Tremblay and Jack Dylan Grazer are great together. They both bring genuine emotion to their roles and work brilliantly together. The supporting cast has some recognizable names such as Maya Rudolph, Jim Gaffigan, and Sacha Baron Cohen, and they’re all fine, but the movie is at its best when it is focusing on Tremblay and Grazer’s characters without the need for any big stars with them.
In an artistic sense, the film is less stunning than most from Pixar, but there are still some excellent things going on here. The character design is much more cartoonish than one would like, but the level of detail that went into animating the settings is wonderful. The music by Dan Romer is great as well.
As a whole, Luca isn’t as consistent as one would have come to expect from Pixar, but it’s still a lot better than most animated content this year. As far as family entertainment goes, this is certainly a solid choice.
Luca hits Disney+ on June 18.