Director: Enrico Casarosa
Starring: (voices of) Jacob Tremblay, Jack Dylan Grazer, Emma Berman, Saverio Raimondo, Maya Rudolph, Marco Barricelli, Jim Gaffigan
Run Time: 95 mins
Luca is the latest from Disney Pixar and like Soul before it, faced delays to its theatrical release before releasing on Disney+, which sparked controversy within the team. Set on the Italian Rivera, Luca is a young sea monster who lives with his over-protective parents, who warn him of the perils of the human world. Luca spends his days supervising a flock of fish (who behave and bleat like sheep) and clearly is longing for more purpose and excitement in his life. The set-up is essentially The Good Dinosaur under the sea. Luca meets a fellow sea monster named Alberto, who is seemingly care-free and adventurous and leads Luca out of the sea, where both assume human form once dry, literally ‘fish out of water’. They work up the courage to discover the port town of Portorosso, where they make friends with a young Italian female misfit named Giulia and attempt to compete in a the town’s traditional triathlon (swimming, cycling and eating pasta of course!), whilst Luca evades his parents who are searching for him.
Luca is a sweet and amiable film that is much smaller in scope and scale compared to some of Pixar’s other offerings. Although decidedly more suitable for children, Luca’s aesthetic cries of Call Me By Your Name combined with The Little Mermaid, director Enrico Casarosa (in his debut feature after assisting as a storyboard artist on previous Pixar films) drawing inspiration from his childhood in his vivid imagining of the sunblushed Italian coast. The central trio of Luca, Alberto and Giulia are very well developed and there are some humorous supporting characters. Luca’s Grandmother does not share the same world view as his parents, knowing from experience that breaking some rules in life is a part of growing up and Sacha Baron Cohen shows up in a very brief role as Luca’s unhygienic Uncle Ugo, who resides in the deep sea, where Luca’s parents threaten to send him to live if he fails to stop rebelling.
Luca is a significantly more gentle film compared to other Pixar entries and tackles less heady and existential themes. There isn’t a standout emotional sequence that reduces the audience to tears, which is customary for many of Pixar’s films. Whilst Luca is engaging and entertaining in the moment, this is not a film that has the lasting and endearing quality that Pixar’s top tier offerings have.