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Luca: A Charming Pixar Film About Sea Monsters and Vespa Scooters

June 16, 2021
Poster courtesy of Disney

Quick Thoughts: Luca is a delight. If you are looking for a breezy and fun story involving sea monsters, you will love it. The only thing I worry about is Pixar fans complaining that Luca is a kids film, and not Wall-E or Ratatouille.

Directed by Enrico Casarosa (the story/storyboard artist on Coco, Up, and Ratatouille), and written by Jesse Andrew and Mike Jones, Luca is an adorable film about two sea monsters making friends with the locals of a town on the Italian Riviera. The movie has a neat Studio Ghibli meets Pixar vibe, as it features two young sea creatures who turn into humans when they leave the water, and have to keep their identities secret as the local townsfolk are super afraid of the fabled sea monsters. 

The film starts with young Luca Paguro (Jacob Tremblay) watching after his flock of fish, and dealing with his overbearing mom Daniella (Maya Rudolph), who is justifiably afraid of the murderous humans. Luca lives a comfortable and monotonous life in the water that is essentially one big routine of shepherding his fish, and staying out of sight of fishing boats. His life changes when he meets Alberto Scorfano (Jack Dylan Grazer), a rogue sea monster who lives on land, and scavenges human knick knacks for his collection. The two form a close friendship, and run away to the local town after Luca’s parents threaten him with a summer in the deep, where he’ll sit in darkness with his translucent uncle Ugo (Sacha Baron Cohen), and listen to him talk for hours (and eat dead whale bits). 

When they reach the town they meet Giulia (Emma Berman), and her father Massimo (Marco Barrricelli), and are drawn into the local athletic event that takes place once a year and features swimming, eating and cycling (an Italian Iron Man-ish event). If they win, they’ll win enough money to buy a Vespa, which will allow them to drive around the world, and be on their own away from lame adults. What follows is a whole lot of cuteness involving pasta, training montages, and new friendships. 

Luca features refreshingly low stakes, and the 95-minute running time flies by. You’ll fall in love with the Italian town, cheeky characters and the delicious looking pasta that is consumed throughout. Casarosa was influenced by Italian films La Dolce Vita, 8 1/2, La Strada, and Nights of Cabiria (all directed by Federico Fellini), and you can see their influence throughout as Luca features coming-of-age stories, people leaving hometowns, and multiple daydreams that feature Vespa journeys. An added bonus is that the Italian town is wonderfully realized, and you feel like you know its geography, and would actually want to visit the place to see the beautiful vistas. The overall relaxed vibe is a welcome change of pace for Pixar, and it will be interesting to see how audiences respond to the niceness of it all. 

Final Thoughts: Luca is such a nice film. Watch it, enjoy it, don’t complain that it isn’t Wall-E.

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