A simple but entertaining story.
Luca lives under the sea with his parents as a family of sea monsters, working every day herding fish, when the intrigue of fallen objects from the land above gets the better of him. So begins a classic fish-out-of-water story, with added Vespas.
Sometimes there isn’t a whole lot to say about a movie, but that isn’t to be seen as a bad thing. Luca is directed by Enrico Casarosa, and is a feature directing debut, having created one of the best Pixar shorts La Luna (aka. Boy on the Moon) and there certainly are stylistic comparisons to be made between the two! Starring Jacob Tremblay (Room) and Jack Dylan Grazer (It: Chapter 2) as two sea monsters who become fast friends with a dream of having a Vespa; a magical vehicle that will allow them to see the world!
There are classic Disney tropes here: A young protagonist wanting to see the wider world; a controlling and/or protective parental figure who within the first five minutes says they shouldn’t do what the movie is definitely all about. The two boys have good, and familiar, chemistry. Luca is the innocent “good boy” (as he is quoted saying about himself) while Alberto is more of a rebellious sort. Both are kind, and both want the same thing, but the movie gently applies obstacles that test their individual desires and motivations.
For a Disney Pixar movie, it wasn’t hugely challenging. In fact, certain story beats one might expect to be difficult or even harrowing for our characters, mostly resolve themselves quite easily. A far cry from the Disney movies of the early 1990s. It wasn’t as emotionally-crippling or as emotionally-investing as Disney movies tend to be.
The movie is very pleasing to look at. The quaint little Italian coastal town they find themselves in is beautifully rendered but not at all straining for “realism”. The characters and comedy are cartoonish, too, making for a goofy, mostly light-hearted experience overall.
The film’s strengths lie in its design work, and some of the dialogue. The fish that Luca is initially required to shepherd are very silly and cute, and there’s a sequence in the town… involving children and football… which is definitely a highlight!
With a likeable group of characters, pleasing visuals, and without the breakneck antics that Pixar often has towards the third act, Luca is just a chill time. A good distraction for anyone’s lazy afternoon.