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Luca movie review | no spoilers [Animation]

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Luca movie review

Storyline

Set in a beautiful seaside town on the Italian Riviera; the original animated feature is a coming-of-age story about one young boy experiencing an unforgettable summer filled with gelato; pasta, and endless scooter rides. Luca shares these adventures with his newfound best friend. But all the fun is threatened by a deeply-held secret: he is a sea monster; from another world just below the water’s surface.

Credit to imdb

Quick states

  • Director: Enrico Casarosa
  • Genres: Animation, Adventure, Comedy, Family, Fantasy
  • Stars: Jacob Tremblay, Jack Dylan Grazer, Emma Berman
  • Writers: Enrico Casarosa
  • Certificate: PG
  • Country: USA
  • Language: English, Italian
  • Release Date: 2021
  • AKA: Luca
  • Filming Location: Liguria, Italy – California, USA
  • Runtime: 95 min

Luca movie rating

Rating: 7.6

Luca movie review

The Little Mermaid may find this a familiar proposition; as Luca’s parents barred from climbing to the surface by threats from local fishermen. But there is a major difference: Sea monsters can turn to human form on land. Luca’s world changes when his friend, the new sea monster Alberto; pulls him to the surface and lets him see how life as humans can be fun.

Luca is an impeccable summer/family movie; featuring a unique style of animation that will be especially fun on the big screen. It’s a nice change from other more serious Pixar movies like Soul or Inside Out, which have focused on big concepts like “Meaning of Life” or “How We Feel.” But Luca doesn’t succeed in reaching the high level we’ve used from Pixar, making smaller themes seem important through narratives and characters. The film presents a story of maturity for very similar characters to current Pixar films; but without a story that makes these subjects offer something new.

There’s simplicity and clarity in the smallness of Luca World; a world that matches the film’s story of friendship and exploration as a means of character maturity. This is evident in the details of the world’s construction in the film; which gives it a magical local character, both for the world below sea level and above the earth’s surface. At home, Luca extracts seaweed (i.e., harvesting the wheat fields on the ground) and grazes the puffed flocks; which he solidifies as a member of a farmer’s family. The city of Puerto Rico looks similarly charming, inspired by the time director Enrico Casarosa spent in the Italian Riviera. The town square is teeming with children playing football, men hauling bayonets from their boats; women gossiping about in conversation and rumor while taking ice cream.

Luca movie trailer

Credit to Pixar youtube channel

The town annually hosts the Puerto Rican Cup, a sort of triathlon (with a funny change), which Luca and Alberto have in mind, as the prize money will buy them a motorcycle, which they consider a ticket to freedom. But Puerto Rico is also famous for hunting sea monsters, and every time the two boys are exposed to water, including small objects like a spill of a glass of water, they are turned back into their marine body, risking being captured.

Although this hypothesis provides a lot of room for laughter; Luca and Alberto’s backstories are not deep enough to allow viewers to actually feel empathy for their friendship. These backstories are essential parts of any Pixar film, without which Luca lacks a somewhat deep emotional core. For example, much of the impact of Up’s story comes from the touching opening scene; in which we see the details of the main character, how he met with the love of his life; and the desire to honor her memory after her death.

Marlon’s fears in Finding Nemo remain constant throughout the film; portraying how he loved his son to the point of following him. And, of course, the song “Remember me” in the film Coco can make you cry and that is how to know the impact of the film.

But unlike here, the unveiling of the highly touching story of Alberto’s origin delayed until the end of the film. He quickly built his relationship with Luca through their own jokes; motorcycle shots, and a familiar kind of crush to anyone who felt jealous about a close friend.

However,

Luca movie poster

Luca’s parents seem overly bossy when they prevent him from climbing to the surface. While the film shows the threat to the area from the beasts of the sea; it does not give Lucas a family much personal connection to this threat.

Luca is a great artist who makes it better to watch it in cinemas. Casarosa is a gentle, distinctive style and is more oriented toward the style of art paintings. In Luca, the traditional Pixar techniques of designing the environment have been replaced with a style more akin to the sculptures of the ocean, the sunset, and the sloping hills. The studio is inclined to create spectacular visual sights through moments of magnification in style (imagine the rich visual drawings of Coco). Luca’s film embodies the beauty of leaving the house by minimizing the details in favor of the big tire and lighting, and it evokes awe when Luca first leaves the sea, staring at the stars or watching the sunrise.

But while environmental designs tend to give a sense of calm, character designs reflect exaggerated comedic forms. The film gives a richer comic language to work with. Some character designs are particularly delightful: Julieta, a friend of human Luca and Alberto; has brilliant triangle hair that reflects the playful design of broad-bottom jeans. Her father designed as an eerie square figure and eerily large. The transformation between the sea monster and man is also a source of comedy; as Luca and Alberto scramble to hide each other whenever they touch the water.

The visual language of the film seems to be influenced by some obvious influences. For example, the dreamlike scenes of Hayao Miyazaki are visually stunning and instantly recognizable even though the film is three-dimensional.

In Conclusion

Luca imagines himself flying with Alberto; flying across the sky on a motorcycle in scenes that resemble the beautiful La Luna Casarosa. We also see inspiration from Porco Rosso Miyazaki, which is similar to Portoroso in Luca.

While these scenes are visually beautiful, they are not rich in content; especially when compared to the style and uses of Miyazaki. When Jiro Horikoshi dreams of flying in, for example, the Wind Rises, the scene is so touching because this man’s life dream of building airplanes was realized in the context of designing World War II fighter planes. We don’t mean that Luca should be burdensome; as the comparison with Miyazaki is of course heavy, and Luca is a light summer film about self-exploration; but it indicates why the Luca story seems to be lacking.

Pixar is famous for its ingenuity in making small, tense moments overcome broader risks to the story. Can be funny but do what’s needed, like taking a risk from Mike and Sully in Monsters, Inc. With their jobs when they hide baby, Bo, as well as risking upending the whole beast-horror economy, Luca instead relies on the now-obsolete metaphors of reaching out to characters, such as authoritarian parents and open, favorite friends, without building a strong, realistic relationship or explaining why Luca and Alberto fit into the wider beast community.

The first animated film by Enrico Casarosa of Pixar Luca is a fun, light summer movie about adolescence and independence. The quiet animation technique challenges Pixar’s typical, realistic approach, with some particularly stunning scenes inspired by Hayao Miyazaki. But Luca ultimately suffers from a lack of depth in the story and evolution of the characters; which prevents him from reaching the level of Pixar‘s remarkable reputation for storytelling.

Ayoub
Writer and film critic for Filmiland website, movies enthusiast, and a college student in the Film and Audiovisual Production Management. "Everything I know I know from movies!"

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