Let me start by saying that I can't help but appreciate the that between this and 'Soul', Disney Plus has actually offered new Pixar titles for free with the subscription as opposed to the unnecessary $35 for titles like 'Mulan' or 'Raya'. This works out well for someone like me who would choose probably choose Disney/Pixar over straight Disney any day. Both have great titles under their belts, but there's a special something about Pixar - they have a tendency to get real about things, and make things easily relatable. There's most likely a Pixar flick out there for everyone, and their focus on multiculturalism lately only helps that.
'Luca' here is no exception; this time, taking place in Italy, and directed by Italian Pixar newcomer, Enrico Casarosa. This is a great follow-up to names like Kemp Powers co-directing 'Soul', and Adrian Molina co-directing 'Coco', giving someone a chance to tell a story about their culture without it having to go to certain extremities. While movies like 'Soul' cover urban living and jazz music, 'Luca' gives us an appreciation for Italian life by showing us things like kids playing soccer, a love for amazing food, cycling, and an incredibly inviting atmosphere. If I were to take a vacation in any real-world Pixar setting, it might very well be this one (the Land of the Dead from 'Coco' is still my favourite place).
The story deals with Luca Paguro (Jacob Tremblay) - a young sea monster who dwells with his overprotective parents, Daniela and Lorenzo (Maya Rudolph and Jim Gaffigan, respectively) off the coast of the fictional town of Portorosso (not to be confused with Ghibli's 'Porco Rosso'), Italy. Luca lives a farm life down in the sea, herding goatfish, and gets pretty bored with routine. It doesn't help that while he remains curious about what's beyond the water's surface, his parents insist that it's incredibly dangerous to check out due to human fear and misunderstanding of what they are. One day, he finds some trinkets scattered on the ocean floor. It turns out, these things are being collected by another sea monster named Alberto (Jack Dylan Grazer) who shows Luca that if they go to the surface, they can turn human.
The film then does a great job of suggesting what wows the pair of friends when their ultimate goal becomes getting their hands on a Vespa. This is driven by their desire to get away and see the world - Luca, because his parents are trying to send him away with his weird Uncle and Alberto seemingly just because he's a runaway and he can. They soon learn of the Portorosso Cup Race when they meet the likes of the cocky and irritating Ercole Visconti (Saverio Raimondo) and new friend who they team up with, Giulia Marcovaldo (Emma Berman). Together, Luca, Alberto and Giulia train for the race, determined to not only put Ercole in his place, but to win the prize money that will ultimately get Luca and Alberto their Vespa.
In true Pixar fashion, of course, there gets to be more than meets the eye here, and a simple mission to get a Vespa turns into something else along the way. Meanwhile, a funny side story unfolds as Luca's parents go looking for him, and their interactions with the humans are pretty hilarious. As far as Pixar movies go, this is one I sort of meet in the middle. I can't deny that there was a bit of predictability here, and I saw the film taking from certain things like 'The Little Mermaid' when it came to trinkets and whatever the mystery world above was all about - furthermore, changing human when on the surface. But with that said, the film still offers some good lessons in friendships, teamwork, and accepting what we don't understand.
All in all, I enjoyed the film, but it didn't quite strike the deep chord movies like 'Soul', 'Up' or 'WALL-E' did. It didn't leave me with that feeling of "I need to go take a walk and ponder life". However, this is still really good in a whole different way, and I'd sooner compare it to 'Coco' in that it's a good dose of a particular culture while telling a good story. I think there are better, but there are definitely worse. I still had a lot of fun with this, and that included a few laugh out loud moments, a few tugs at the heartstrings as Pixar knows how to do so well, and my desire to visit Italy cranking up to about 11. They even put the credits in Italian. The atmosphere is just so inviting here, and I wanted to crawl into the screen and lounge on one of the patios. I can't help but be curious, and look forward to what part of the world Pixar will cover next! I may be giving this a 3, but trust me when I say it's a very high 3.
Writers and Directors