Two sea creatures find adventure, family in this animated delight
By Diana Beechener
For Luca (Jacob Tremblay: Pete the Cat) life isn’t that exciting under the sea. He spends his days shepherding a school of fish on his family’s farm and hiding whenever boats containing “human monsters” pass overhead. His well-meaning, but overbearing mother has told him there is nothing so dangerous as the creatures that dwell above the surface.
Luca knows the stories: the humans hunt sea creatures like him, dubbing them monsters. But he’s still fascinated by the world above the waves. But unlike a certain red-headed mermaid, Luca isn’t brave enough to be part of their world.
At least, at first.
When Luca meets Alberto (Jack Dylan Grazer: We Are Who We Are), a fellow sea creature who’s been living above the surface, he’s literally dragged out of his comfort zone. Once on dry land, Luca realizes that his body magically transforms and he looks like any other human boy. Alberto teaches Luca about humanity, giving him walking lessons and showing off all the treasures he’s found.
Luca is enthralled. Alberto helps him break out of his timid shell, becoming more adventurous and embracing his love of the human world. But not everyone is happy about the change.
His parents are terrified of the choices Luca is making and refuse to see humans as anything other than murderous monsters. They’re not wrong. The local village that Luca and Alberto explore is filled with monuments to those who’ve slain sea creatures. It’s unlikely they’ll be accepted if their secret is discovered.
Can Luca and Alberto eke out a happy existence between land and sea? Or will the prejudices of both societies condemn them?
A beautiful look at friendship, love, and finding acceptance, Luca is another stellar entry in the Pixar catalog. Director Enrico Casarosa (La Luna) drew from his childhood memories of summers in Genoa to create this sweet and sensitive film. Casarosa focuses mainly on the relationship between Luca and Alberto, and how each boy is able to grow via their friendship. It’s an interesting look at both the innocence of childhood and the growing pains we all face as we age and expand our circles of friends and family.
The movie also features some wildly creative interpretations of sea creatures, drawing inspiration from old renderings of sea monsters on maps and tweaking them enough to make them kid-friendly. Who doesn’t like a dad whose mustache is made of kelp? Luca and Alberto have riotous curls when on land and scaley hair in the sea. Their transformation is elegantly animated, as the boys play in and out of the ocean.
As always, Pixar films are as deep as you’d like them to be. On the surface, Luca is a film about friendship. But Luca isn’t content with just life on the surface. Dive deeper and you’ll find a moving story about the importance of acceptance in children’s lives. When Luca doesn’t find acceptance at home, he finds another family who’s willing to support him. Luca is a movie that intensely values found communities that offer love and support.
Though there’s a lot to digest with Luca, there’s plenty of fun to be had. Young audiences and those who appreciate a good running gag will love Luca’s parents’ quest to dunk every child they encounter into water. There’s also a cat named Machiavelli who relentlessly stalks the boys in a hilarious bit of slapstick. The only character who doesn’t seem to fit into the joyous rabble is the bully, who would be more at home in a Stephen King novel.
Still, one over-the-top villain can’t dampen a great fish tale. And Luca’s charm and artistry makes it a gorgeous reminder of why Pixar has been at the top of the animation field for decades.
Luca is available on Disney+ beginning June 18.
Great Animation * PG * 95 mins.