To be honest, I’m a bit scared of the ocean. Beneath the dark depths could be anything, including sea monsters that we haven’t discovered yet, and who knows what they’re capable of! Leave it to Pixar to take a concept like this and make a cute adventure out of it.
Like Monsters, Inc., Pixar takes the fear of monsters lurking out of sight and uses it to tell a heartwarming story about friendship. Luca tells the story of a sea monster named, uh, Luca, overcoming the challenges of living life among humans. The center of the tale revolves around him and the two friends he meets: Alberto (another sea monster) and Giulia (a daughter of a fisherman), as they get ready for a race in town. It’s a simple story and wonderfully blissful. There’s nothing extremely deep or complicated about it. It’s merely new friends learning to get along and enjoy life together, and that plays to the narrative’s strengths and weaknesses. The movie’s strength lies within the simplicity. The main setting is a small seaside town, yet because of the tightly woven narrative between the protagonists, it’s highly memorable. Excuse the odd comparison, but this reminds me of the early Assassin’s Creed video games (bear with me). In Assassin’s Creed II, you went on a grand adventure across Italy through several decades, but in the follow up game, you are strictly placed in Rome throughout the adventure. The setting of Rome stood out more than any of the locations in the previous game because of how intimately you came to understand the location. The town of Portorosso is like that for me. Even the wandering and unimportant civilians stood out, with their charming mannerisms and reactions to the shenanigans around them. You get but a glimpse of the townsfolk, but it’s just enough to make you want to get to know them and their little community more. However, the small-scale tale is hindered by, well, its smallness. Pixar is known for out-of-the-box ideas when it comes to their stories. From looking at reality differently through the eyes of toys and bugs to taking us beyond our world, such as alternate dimensions and even into the metaphysical realm of our psyche, Pixar challenges themselves to think creatively. Unfortunately, this isn’t a creative movie. You can easily spot inspirations from other films, such as The Little Mermaid, and as a result, you may experience a sense of deja vu and know exactly what to expect as the story progresses. Despite that, Luca is a nice, relaxing getaway that just makes you feel good while watching it.
I talked briefly about the characters and their charm, and a major part of what makes them charming is the absolutely gorgeous animation. Pixar movies have been pretty breathtaking in terms of visuals in the past, but this one dares to be artistic. It’s like a blend of Peanuts and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. It almost has a Genndy Tartakovsky feel, and I love it! The animation is silky smooth, and it allows the overexaggerated designs and expressions to pop much more than previous movies. Remember how the emotions of Inside Out were animated a bit more over-the-top than the humans? It’s like that, except it’s literally every character. Additionally, in line with the characters being more cartoony, the environment takes on a more colorful and overly saturated aesthetic. Ok, yes, the water still looks photoreal (Pixar really likes their water technology.), but the props, buildings, and the seafloor have such vibrant colors that, like the childlike endearment of the story, it makes you feel good watching it. I guess it’s like a warm and inviting painting that captures your attention in a museum. The wonderful mixture of colors and shapes and lighting all culminate in a visual delight, and your eyes will thank you for watching it.
As expected, the voice work is fantastic. They are well directed, and the performances are just as cheery and warm as the visuals themselves. However, there’s one voice in particular I felt was a bit out of place with the rest of the cast. As great as Jack Grazer did as Alberto, his voice reminded me too much of Sokka from Avatar: The Last Airbender. This honestly wouldn’t have been a problem, but the rest of the cast used very strong Italian accents, which made Grazer’s voice sound more like an early 2000s American high schooler in comparison. Overvall, the joyful script provided some delightful voice work that compliments the already gleeful movie.
Despite the relatable characters and universal story about childhood experiences, Luca doesn’t hit quite the same way as previous Pixar films. It’s a charming story filled with childish whimsy, but unlike other stories, this doesn’t explore the themes as deeply as it could have. Nonetheless, Luca is a nice escape from the stress of the world and allows us to remember a time when life seemed simpler and more fantastical.
Leave a Reply.