A young lad meets a stranger who convinces him to go visit a forbidden place. The lad’s family, when learning about this, object and inform him that he’s going away to live with his uncle. The lad quickly leaves his home where he meets up with his friend and becomes involved with wild adventures and experiences until his parents come looking for him.
This is a simple premise, but there is nothing simple in its execution for this latest entry by Pixar titled Luca. Instead, this animated film delivered some beautiful messages about finding one’s path, the definition of friendships and family, all while doing so in a dazzling way that married art and story.
In 2011, Enrico Casarosa presented Pixar with a short film that has to this date been my favorite for its unique artistry. La Luna has a style to it that is both new in how it was animated but very old in the beautiful images it presented. It almost felt like a foreign film. Now, 10 years later the studio that gave us Toy Story and Coco has unveiled Casarosa’s feature-length debut with Luca, and much of that same other-worldly imagination and animation are back into play. Of course, the trailers have made it plain where Luca comes from. He’s a sea monster living in the waters of the Italian Riviera. In fact, there is a community of sea monsters living there. It is also known that once out of the waters and dry that they can pass as a human. What we don’t know about are the companions that Luca keeps. He first meets roguish Alberto, who dazzles Luca with ideas about exploring the world together on a Vespa. There is also Giulia, a young girl visiting her father during the summer who wants to win a triathlon and dethrone the village bully. As Luca’s friendship with Giulia grows Alberto starts to feel a sense of abandonment, which is something he is sadly all too familiar with. Plot complications galore start to happen, including some surprises and twists that I did not see coming. However, this is Pixar and there must be a happy ending, but in the finest of Pixar traditions, this was one that I should have seen coming, but did not. It caught me completely by surprise and even bordered on going too far with its sense of “happily ever after,” but another surprising scene involving Luca and Alberto at the end brought the focus on what the heart of this story is, and that is the power of friendship and love.
The voice-talent for this movie was outstanding, especially with the characters of Luca (Jacob Tremblay) and Alberto (Jack Dylan Grazer). They were both fully committed to bringing these characters to life that gave this movie the emotional resonance that is very much needed. There is also the gruff character of Giulia’s father, Massimo (Marco Barricelli). His was the most surprising giving a vocal delivery that matched the character’s imposing animated look, but could also soften and come off as a gentle giant of a man.
Lastly, there is this dazzling animation. While the characters are enjoyable to look at, it is the scenery of this village where this story takes place that is breathtaking. As with many Pixar feature films, the details are perfect, from the textures to the colors, to even how some buildings are slanted which gave life to this movie. I could almost sense the surroundings myself and smell the seawater with the quality of the animation.
Once again, Pixar has demonstrated why they are one of the most highly rated animation studios in the industry. Their films are created with a perfect balance of character detail, storytelling, and artistic animation, making Luca another triumph in a very long list of triumphs from Pixar and Disney.
For having a perfect story with equally perfect animation, Luca receives 5 out of 5 Vespas!
Luca is available for all subscribers of the Disney+ Streaming Service.