This is a spoiler free review.
Santa Mozzarella! The undisputed kings of animation, Disney and Pixar, are back with yet another heartwarming coming of age story that is riddled with topics like friendship, family and adventure.
Luca brings viewers to the beautiful Italian riviera, in the small fictional town of Portorosso, where it’s pebbled floors provide a rough and bumpy terrain to those on bicycles, with a quaint gelato store nestled between one’s home and a coffee shop, warm sun shining down and reflecting against the blue waters, delicious pasta and kids running around barefoot playing soccer in the heat.
Whilst Portorosso is where our main character Luca (Jacob Tremblay) spends his time learning and growing, the story actually starts deep beneath the ocean, where fishes are raised like cattles, and are reared by slimy, colourful and scaled sea monsters.
Our Luca is actually a sea monster who swims closer and closer, ala Ariel, to the surface, curious of what lies above it. He comes from a humble family where his mother, played by comedian Maya Rudolph, is overprotective but loving, while his father (Jim Gaffigan) is inattentive but funny, as well as his grandma (Sandy Martin), who is…. well, if there’s anything Disney and Pixar both love about portraying the elderly, it’s that they’re the coolest and most understanding people – well in Luca’s case creatures – you’ll ever meet.
Yes, this seems very The Little Mermaid, but unlike our red-headed half-fish half-human, Luca is a very good boy. He doesn’t disobey his parents, he does his chores and is actively seen fighting his urges to go beyond the sea level… up until he meets an older boy named Alberto (Jack Dylan Grazer).
Alberto is a fellow sea monster, but has lived his life mostly on land. Filling Luca with tales and courage (or what some disapproving parents may consider bad influence), Luca finally steps foot on land and slowly learns about the human world via the unreliable Alberto, who thinks stars are anchovies.
While many would identify Disney with magical elements, Pixar has never been one to put magic directly in the spotlight. Toys in Toy Story just come alive when their owners aren’t around, and before humans come to exist in this world, we’re all just souls in ‘The Great Before’ filling up a report card in preparation to be born. There are no evil witches or pixie dust, just myths that have been accepted to be true and valid. Thus, in Luca, these young sea monsters become human boys the moment they’re out of the water, and will immediately gain their scales, fins and tails back the moment they come into contact with water too.
As they wander around to make sense of Portorosso and its human occupants, the two friends meet Giulia (Emma Berman), a young and spirited girl who is back from school for the summer. She accepts them as her friends, even standing up for them against big bully Ercole (Saverio Raimondo) and friendship soon blooms between the trio. Together, they go on fun-filled activities including cycling, eating and other things you do during summer as a kid.
At its core, Luca is a beautiful coming of age movie that centers around exploration of your own identity and more importantly, loving and supportive friendships. Whilst some may feel like there may have been space and even opportunity for Luca and Alberto or even Luca and Giulia to grow something romantic, Pixar and Disney’s decision to show platonic love in friendships is commendable.
Luca pushes the message that one can still love themselves and explore their own identity without a romantic partner involved, and that for once is a healthy message we would want to pass on to the kids watching. This is a big difference from other kids’ movies in which finding oneself and finding love are mutually exclusive often tend to be the main messages.
The movie is wholesome and heartwarming and it’s got equally beautiful art to accompany it. From people of different shades, age, features, to the colours and textures of a sea monster’s scales, the movie radiates positivity. With colours so bright and vivid, Luca is a movie that one can take comfort in when they need some joy and wholesomeness in their lives.
Plus, Luca is a movie that surprisingly, leaves quite a lasting impression. The movie’s catchphrase ‘Silencio Bruno!’ is a rather effective tool to silence negativity in one’s head. And as we’re all making sense of living in a pandemic-facing world, we can all afford to scream out ‘Silencio Bruno’ every once in a while.
And this is a film everyone can enjoy, as Luca is an original movie released only on Disney+. It’s not opening in theatres, and it doesn’t require Premier Access. To a certain extent, Luca not premiering in cinema is a bit of a waste, especially since the beautiful animation and colours are deserving of the love of a gigantic wide screen. Nonetheless, the feel-good movie can still be enjoyed and appreciated on one’s TV, phone, laptop or tablet as the biggest impact of the movie lies in its sweet coming of age story and lessons on friendship.
Whether you’re 5, 10 or as grown as 45, Luca is a movie that audiences can all enjoy – and if you don’t, ‘What’s the matter with you stupido?!’
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
Luca is a wholesome and beautifully animated coming of age story that will have you feeling warm whether you’re 5, 10 or at a grown age of 45.
Story - 8/10
Direction - 8/10
Characterisation - 7/10
Geek Satisfaction - 8/10