Pixar was the gold standard of CGI animated movies. Toy Story, The Incredibles, Cars, and Finding Nemo; all great examples of movies I can watch over and over. Alas, the Golden Age of Pixar ended a long time ago and they have not been cranking out the movies they used to, and Luca is not an exception. I was wondering why this new release from Disney+ was not one of their “Premier Access” movies and now I know why. Luca is one of those fun but forgettable animated movies that I am extremely glad Disney did not release to theaters (save your hard-earned cash for a popsicle or a fish stick).
Do not get me wrong, it is not a bad movie. It is a good film by your everyday animated movie standards, but by Pixar standards, the net is empty on this one. Or the big fish are not biting. I’ll save you from the fish metaphors for the rest of this review.
Luca (Jacob Tremblay) is a young boy who herds his fish while trying to avoid the “land monsters” (creative name, I know) until one day he finds a whole bunch of treasures from the surface world. When he begins to try to search for more, he finds a human! Alberto (Jack Dylan Grazer) is a human who discovers him, or at least Luca thinks he is human. Alberto can switch between human and sea monsters. Turns out Luca can too. Alberto shows Luca all there is on their little island until Luca’s mom finds out he is hanging out on land and threatens him to live with his uncle in the bottom of the darkest depths of the ocean (Parents, this is a great tip for you, just send your misbehaving kids to the depths, that always works!).
Luca and Alberto decided to hide where Luca’s parents will never find them – the village on the mainland. After insulting some old ladies and a run-in with the bully, Ercole, they are saved by Giulia (Emma Berman), a local fisherman’s daughter who is determined to win the big race and curses by using all the cheese’s name in vain. The three underdogs team up to accomplish this goal for Giulia to have her bragging rights and for Luca and Alberto to buy a scooter to travel the world with. Meanwhile, Luca’s parents are not far behind in their mission to protect their son at all costs. Luca and Alberto have so much to learn about the surface world and their friendship is tested throughout the process.
The story is what draws you into this little coastal village in Italy. Luca is a great story of friendship, understanding those people who are different, and a coming-of-age story. Luca is taken under the wing of Alberto but when Giulia is added to the mix, Alberto starts to feel like the outcast and suddenly his confident exterior starts to deteriorate. Giulia shows them the ropes of life in her little village and while Luca finds it exciting and wonderful, Alberto is unsure of it all. Giulia is a headstrong girl who wants to win the race and end the bully’s reign of terror. Luca wants to learn more about the world. Alberto just wants to travel the world with his new pal, Luca. All three juggle the emotions of each other’s goals, dreams, and adjusting to a life where you can’t get wet or else, you’ll expose yourself as a sea monster (Reminds me a lot of freshman year of high school, minus the whole half man half fish thing).
Without giving too much away, the lessons at the end are ones more we should see more about friendship and how friends are pretty much *Vin Diesel voice* “family, and you don’t give up on family”.
Unfortunately, the movie as a whole is average. The animation is average, the humor is average, the world-building is average, everything you would expect in a Disney cash-grab direct-to-video sequel is in this movie, which is very disappointing since it’s a standalone story that had so much potential. It felt like someone took a very rough draft of Finding Nemo and set a coming-of-age story in the village from that one scene in Aqua-man and created a story that could be from an elementary school version of High School Musical where some people are sea monsters. Luca is a nice film that you can watch at home with a Disney+ subscription and then immediately watch the newest episode of Loki. 3.5/5.
Born and raised in Michigan, I am a huge fan of movies and a big history buff. I am a graduate of the University of Michigan (with a Bachelors in History, surprise) and currently an officer in the Michigan Army National Guard. I reside in the East Lansing, MI area. My hobbies include hiking, watching movies, playing video games, going to the shooting range, and traveling Up North (as we call it) for vacation.