Pixar’s latest offering, Luca, has finally arrived. As with any Pixar film, it is inevitably going to be divisive in regards to where it falls in animated film rankings. Luckily, Luca stands well enough on its own as a joyous adventure about friendship and being true to yourself. If nothing else, it’s the balm to the soul we need for this summer.
Meet Luca (Jacob Tremblay), a young boy with a mythical secret. He’s a sea creature that lives in the waters off the coast of the fictional Italian fishing town of Portorosso. Anxiously curious about the unknown world of the surface, young Luca eventually befriends the daring Alberto (Jack Dylan Grazer). Not long after they meet, the two dream of a life beyond their small sea home. Eventually, they conjure up a scheme to acquire their ticket to freedom: a Vespa scooter.
This is a wonderfully lighthearted film that wraps you up in the sunny culture of an Italian coastal town and leaves you radiating positivity by the end. Despite an awkward first 10-15 minutes, the film finds its footing once it introduces the audience to both protagonists. Luca and Alberto make for an adorable duo that gets into mischief amongst humans in the hopes of being a part of their world and beyond. Their human friend and fellow “weird kid” Giulia (Emma Berman) further endears viewers throughout the film, driving home the beauty of found families. This story cherishes friendship and self-acceptance, delivering a message of wholesome love that doesn’t need to go into trauma or darker themes to be important.
Director Enrico Casarosa and his team of writers keep the movie tight with a 95-minute runtime and a relatively low-stakes story. Some may find this less exciting than Pixar’s previous films that take the viewer on a wild journey. Some might even find this film boring or not as emotionally impactful as something like Soul. And that’s okay! But I do implore you to not diminish this film’s accomplishments in the throws of comparing it to its predecessors.
Pixar has certainly set a certain standard with its films. Quite often, its filmmakers try to recreate the gut-wrenching emotional impact of films like Up and Toy Story 3. Fortunately, this smaller-scale project relishes its optimistic quirkiness and approaches silly concepts freely. It proves that not every story has to be complex or heartbreaking in order to be considered worthwhile. This is not to say this film is without its tender and serious moments, but it approaches them more gently and balances itself out with sincere cheeriness.
Luca may not be an instant classic in Pixar’s catalog, but it will certainly age well. Nevertheless, it is a beautifully animated film that is the perfect summer weekend watch with friends and family. It whisks you away on a sweet Mediterranean holiday and makes you want to never leave. Despite Disney’s somewhat questionable strategy with its digital release, it is definitely a film that could easily have been enjoyed at a theater but is not diminished by a smaller screen. – Ileana Meléndez
Are you planning on watching Luca? What’s your favorite Pixar film? Let us know in the comments below!