By Paul Hall
A small Italian fishing community is on the lookout for sea monsters. After an encounter at sea, word quickly spreads that there are sea monsters on the loose and not knowing their intent, the community is afraid. But as we look beneath the surface, we find an enclave of these monsters who are less scary and more lovable friends in the new film Luca from Disney and Pixar, playing now on Disney+.
Luca (voice of Jacob Tremblay) is like any young boy. He does his chores, minds his parents and dreams of the future and a life he doesn’t know. A chance meeting with Alberto (Jack Dylan Grazer) leads Luca to an incredible discovery; he can break through the surface of the water and appear human on land.
This meeting creates a bond between Luca and Alberto that grows as the two spend more time together. On the surface, Luca learns to walk and the two begin working together to land a Vespa to call their own. At first they build the non-motorized version together, but there is a bigger dream waiting: the need to explore the village across the water.
The two adventurers set out to the village. It is there they meet a young local girl named Giulia (Emma Berman). She has tried for years to win the Portorosso Cup, a race that includes swimming, biking and, of course, eating pasta. While she has done it by herself in the past, having two partners will make things that much easier. Can they succeed?
Luca delivers so much positive messaging that feels like the desires of Ariel in The Little Mermaid reduced to an even more simplistic level. While moments of the film starts with a bit of a lull, the messaging overpowers the room and the acceptance of the friends for who they are, not what they are, overwhelms the moment.
The beauty of the waters and the basic feel of the small Italian village are truly splendid. As you look at the 3,436 scales that make up the body of sea monster Luca, you experience the true attention to detail of a Pixar film. Working to provide realism combined with a fairy tale creates a film that delights both the senses and sensibilities of viewers.
There are moments throughout the film that I felt this really wouldn’t work for me, and then on a dime it finds its way back into my heart, right where it belongs. While not on par with top-line Pixar efforts, Luca delivers a memorable film.
One thing is for sure, Luca the character and Luca the film are different. They set themselves apart from the crowd, which is a good thing. Accepting our differences increases our strengths, and we can’t be afraid of what we don’t know — Giulia wasn’t, Luca wasn’t and we shouldn’t be afraid either.
Paul’s Grade: B
Voices of Jacob Tremblay, Jack Dylan Grazer, Emma Berman, Sacha Baron Cohen, Maya Rudolph, Jim Gaffigan
Director: Enrico Casarosa