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Luca – Movie Review

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Luca – Movie Review

Rating: A- (Great)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Walt Disney Studios

While a lot of animated films focus on big adventures, there is also room for smaller-scale stories. There can be a niceness to films where we just follow a couple of characters as they participate in a few activities. That’s what Luca aims to achieve and does it beautifully. Director Enrico Casarosa, in his feature directing debut, allows us to take in this Italian village as two boys hang out and make new friends. There is a fantastical element with Luca and Alberto both being sea monsters and this is what gives the film its stakes. This film really captures that warm summer feeling.

The first act plays out like a simple slice-of-life film. Casarosa properly sets up the underwater community and Luca’s family situation. There’s an immediately sympathetic aspect to his character that gets us on board with him and his curiosities. The friendship he forms with Alberto is a charming one and it’s easy to see why they both bond. If Luca mainly involved these two doing fun things in their secluded area, the movie would have remained a nice one. However, the movie gets especially great when they venture into the nearby village. This is when Casarosa gives us something like out of a childhood comic book.

Luca feels like a throwback to classic comics like Peanuts and Dennis the Menace, where children would play and get into hijinks in their neighbourhood. Even the boys’ motivation, where they plan to compete in a local race to win a Vespa, would fit right at home in a Charles Schulz or Hank Ketcham story. Their platonic friendship with a human girl named Giulia is nicely explored and it’s great seeing the escapades they get into together. The local bully also stands out, providing just the right level of threat without the film losing its pleasant nature. The biggest laughs come courtesy of Luca’s parents and their search for him.

For the visuals, Casarosa has been allowed to experiment with the usual Pixar style. The result looks unlike anything produced by the studio thus far. The character designs have a uniqueness that fits the world and the animators make them wonderfully expressive. Production designer Daniela Strijleva gives the town of Portorosso an appropriately inviting quality and you can feel the sun beating down on it. Cinephiles will especially get a kick out of a few nods to classic Italy-set movies. There are imagination sequences that are gorgeous to watch, too. After over a year of being couped up indoors, Luca definitely brings back that feeling of going someplace nice and soaking it all in.

This movie represents a delightful change of pace for Pixar. While they have certainly never lost their touch, as proven with last year’s Soul and Onward and their last few sequels, Luca shows a newfound willingness to experiment further with what the studio is capable of. It’s great that Enrico Casarosa has been given the freedom to tell an obviously personal story and done with its own pace. This is not a film that needs a massive world-changing threat or questions about life and death. There is often too much pressure on Pixar to explore those sorts of ideas and plot threads. It’s good for them to make something like Luca, that is about having a nice day with friends and enjoying pasta and cycling.

Stefan Ellison