A look at Pixar’s latest film with this Luca review:
It’s a decent film – and if it was looking at it as a “kid’s movie” I’d say it’s a great children’s film. But as a movie without a qualifier it comes off feeling generic and a bit predictable.
Pixar’s latest film is available on Disney+, and it takes place on the Italian Rivera and features two boys, Luca and Alberto. While they deal with many of the typical coming of age issues, there is one thing that is very different about them – they’re actually sea monsters. They want to go experience the human world, but the nearby town seems to have a lot of spears and artwork of humans killing sea monsters. Luca runs away from home and the boys attempt to conceal their identities so they can see the world, but realize in order to do that they need to make money – luckily, there’s a “triathlon” contest for kids with a cash prize! They team up with a local girl named Giulia to swim, eat pasta, and bike ride, all while trying to avoid Luca’s parents.
Pixar has created some really fantastic, innovative films, as a result I think many people hold them to a very high standard. Most of their films are appealing to both adults and kids. Recently, while Soul felt like it catered more to adults than kids, Luca feels more like a kids movie than most Pixar films I’ve seen. It’s a decent film – and if it was looking at it as a “kid’s movie” I’d say it’s a great children’s film. But as a movie without a qualifier it comes off feeling generic and a bit predictable.
Luca lacks the unique world creation of many other Pixar films (think Toy Story and Monsters Inc), the incredibly strong character connection in Finding Nemo, the thought-provoking nature of Soul, or even an interesting villain like in Up or The Incredibles. Is it better than some of the Pixar sequels and The Good Dinosaur? Sure. But it doesn’t do anything particular to make it stand out or seem special. It’s an enjoyable watch, but not something I’d be coming back to again and again. Maybe kids (and other adults) will, but it just didn’t really hit the right notes for me.
Humor in Luca
Luca was a funny movie and had a number of laugh out loud moments for us. It managed to do this in a way that two adults in their 30s were laughing so it didn’t resort to typical kid humor that often which I always appreciate (I’ve kind of outgrown fart jokes at this point in my life, thank goodness). Sometimes the movie got a little weird and out there to the point where I was laughing and also saying “what on earth is going on?” Jim Gaffigan and Maya Rudolph as Luca’s parents contribute to many of the funniest moments, especially when they venture out of the ocean and onto land.
Visually the film was really interesting, and I appreciated the different approach to animation. Unlike many of other Pixar’s films, which strive to look as realistic as possible, Luca has more of an artsy quality to it which seems fitting with the Italian setting. The characters look a bit more cartoonish in some ways but it works. Some of them are very reminiscent stylistically of the short La Luna (which isn’t surprising since it’s the same director).
A movie for kids
I imagine kids will enjoy Luca. Aside from the humor, it has a lot of fun and kid activity, like riding their bikes right into the water, eating ice cream, “accidentally” insulting old ladies, and eating as much pasta as they can (okay, I relate to that one too). The grumpy cat is also a funny bit I’m sure kids will like. It’s a short movie at under 90 minutes before the credits roll, and it’s colorful. Not to mention the sea monsters!
Felt very reminiscent of other movies
Movies can absolutely have similarities and even deal with the same sorts of themes and still be great… but the ties to The Little Mermaid in the first 20 minutes of this movie are strong. I could say “it’s a movie with a main character who lives under the sea and is intrigued and fascinated by the world above land, but their parents forbid them from going there. They collect various objects from the human world that they find in the ocean and spend a lot of time watching the humans on boats before finally getting the chance to experience the human world themselves.” What movie am I talking about? Take your pick.
Then there’s the Grandmother who understands the child better than their parents (Moana, Mulan). A scene where the characters are looking up at the stars wondering what those dots in the sky are (The Lion King). Almost all of it just seems oddly familiar. I’ve also heard that there is a lot of Hayao Miyazaki/Studio Ghibli homages, though I’m not well acquainted with most of those films.
Predictable and Generic
As an adult, my biggest issue was that Luca just ends up feeling generic and predictable. A little over halfway through the movie we had paused it to get snacks (of course), and I asked my husband, “want to guess what will happen?” and while we didn’t nail everything, we had pretty much all of the basics of the ending figured out by then already. There’s also this opportunity to create this whole incredible world of sea monsters but we only get a basic glimpse at any of it. Not that I need a whole history, but there’s a lot that could have been explored here to make it a more unique take.
To its credit, Luca does touch on a lot of important themes and I will always appreciate that. Especially when many of those themes have to do with love, acceptance, being who you are, the importance of friendship, and not judging others. The world today can always use these lessons (and not just kids, either). They aren’t overly preachy about it either, though the ending feels like it wraps up a little too neatly.
Does Luca have a gay romance?
The simple answer to this question is no, but I have a lot of thoughts on this so bear with me. Not everyone will view it this way, and maybe it’s partly with this being pride month and I’ve been trying to experience more diverse literature and media, but I found the gay allegory overtones to be pretty strong. Strong enough that other people have also picked up on it and both the director and the producers of the film have made statements about it.
The director of Luca stated in an interview that he viewed it as a “pre-puberty” film, before children are thinking about relationships, romance, or sex. Yet Pixar’s own website describes Luca as being 13 and Alberto as 14. If you think kids haven’t been crushing on each other at the very least by this age I’m not sure what world you live in (not to mention that many kids know their sexuality or gender preferences from a young age).
Could it be a movie that’s about a friendship between two teenage boys? Sure. But it’s worth noting that the boys become very close very quickly (Luca in particular seems very taken with Alberto), put their arms around each other, hug, and ride the same bike together. Ultimately it doesn’t really matter for the film if they are just friends or like each other romantically, but if it was a girl and boy I think the assumption of them being interested in each other would be a given.
In addition, one of the major themes of acceptance in this film has a very strong gay allegory. The creators have described it as being true to yourself and who you are, which of course can apply to a number of situations. That being said, Luca and Alberto’s situation of being sea monsters is an identity that they can hide from other people who will view them differently, something they feel forced to hide because of the society that they are in. They have a friend and ally who accepts them the way that they are and stands up to defend them. And this quote from Grandma feels on point:
Some people, they’ll never accept him. But some will. And he seems to know how to find the good ones.Grandma Paguro, Luca
Did the movie need to be gay? No. Did it feel like a great opportunity to address that, but Disney once again chose to not include an LGBTQ+ character in any meaningful way? To me it did. Perhaps the boys have a peck on the cheek or hands intertwined at the end. It doesn’t have to be inappropriate – no one would blink if it happened between an animated teenage boy and girl. But it certainly would have been hugely significant for so many viewers, and I am a bit sad that Disney continues to skirt around these issues in their films. Pete Docter did state that “It does become this metaphor for the other, and everyone can be specific about how it relates to them,” so he is at least acknowledging that it can be viewed that way, even they aren’t actually endorsing it.
It was a decent enough movie but I wasn’t very compelled by it. I enjoyed certain moments, and it made me want to eat pasta. I fully expect a vespa roller coaster at some point in the Disney theme parks and potentially a re-themeing of areas of the Italy pavilion in Epcot. It just felt like they could have done more with it – more with the themes, more with the characters, more with the potential of the sea monster world and legends. Probably at about a 5 out of 10 for me.
Have you seen Luca? Do you agree with my Luca review?