Review: Disney/Pixar’s ‘Luca’ Is A Colorful, Fun Look Back At The Innocence Of Youth
SALT LAKE CITY – Fresh off their win for best animated film at the 2021 Academy Awards, Disney and Pixar are ready to get back in the water (pun intended) with their newest release, “Luca” — a coming-of-age fantasy/comedy that premiered Friday on the Disney+ streaming platform.
“Luca” tells the story of a brightly-colored, humanoid underwater creature (voiced by Jacob Tremblay) who lives off the coast of Italy with his parents sometime in the 1960s or so. Young Luca’s job is to herd the family’s goat-fish and to definitely, NEVER EVER go above the surface of the water. But things change when Luca meets Alberto (Jack Dylan Grazer) another “sea monster” (as they’re known to surface dwellers) who collects artifacts the humans drop in the water and who shows him that their kind magically transforms into humans when they leave the sea and dry off.
The two become fast friends, spending their time on an island where Alberto says he lives with his father, having fun together and doing things like jumping bikes off cliffs and similar boyish mischief, all the while dreaming of future adventures together in the real world. When Luca’s parents, voiced by Maya Rudolph and Jim Gaffigan, threaten to send him “to the deep” with his weird uncle (Sacha Baron Cohen) if he doesn’t stop going above the surface, Luca and Alberto decide to run away to the human town of Portorosso, where they hope to win enough money to buy their own Vespa and set off to explore the world. They just have to find a way to do it without being exposed as “sea monsters.”
It’s director Enrico Casarosa’s first time helming a full-length feature film, but he did direct the Oscar-nominated digital short “La Luna” a few years ago (it played in theaters with the movie “Brave”) and he seems to have made a smooth transition to the longer format. In “Luca,” he has created a highly enjoyable film with an air of innocence that often seems missing from many other family movies these days. The kids are actually portrayed as kids, not as little versions of adults. They aren’t always the smartest people in the room and they’re not a bunch of quick-witted smart-alecks either. The boys and the girl Giulia they befriend in Portorosso (voiced by newcomer Emma Berman) are just pleasant and earnest characters who have a lot to learn about each other and about life in general.
Much of the movie’s humor comes from simple, innocent things like Luca learning to walk on land, the efforts the boys have to make to avoid getting wet or letting people see them get wet and finding out they’re sea monsters, or how Luca’s parents go about searching for him on land. Moments like these are always a strength in a Pixar movie, and “Luca” is no exception.
There are some moments that will make you think of “The Little Mermaid,” and others reminiscent of the 1980’s Tom Hanks/Daryl Hannah movie, “Splash.” The locations in Mediterranean coastal Italy are gorgeous and vibrantly colorful, as are the moments when Luca’s imagination soars as he tries to make sense of the surface world he’s learning about, making it easy to also immerse yourself just as he does. Plus, you’re never likely to find another movie that holds the Vespa scooter in such high regard!
Not surprisingly, there’s really nothing offensive in the movie at all. “Luca” is rated PG for some rude humor and language (though I honestly don’t recall any bad language), and some brief violence. The movie is only 1 hour & 35 minutes long—so kids will definitely be able to get in LOTS of viewings each day!
It’s a shame, in a way, that “Luca” isn’t playing in theaters because it would look great up on the big screen. It seems that Disney and Pixar have done it again, creating an innocent, imaginative and lighthearted movie that I and my entire family enjoyed watching together. I give it THREE AND A HALF out of FOUR stars.
“Luca” is exclusively available via streaming on Disney Plus, just like “Soul” back in December. It is available to all with the regular $8/month Disney Plus basic subscription. There is no additional premium fee for it.
Hopefully you & your family found this review helpful! Andy Farnsworth is the movie and pop culture guy for the KSL 5 Today morning news show and also hosts the Fan Effect podcast for KSL NewsRadio. Check out some of his other in-depth reviews of movies and streaming TV series on KSLTV.com
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