CERT: U / PLATFORMS: DISNEY+ / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
When it comes to Pixar, the studio has set quite a high standard over the years, of course there has been the odd slip (Cars 2) but even lower level Pixar has boasted joy and heart. Now, with their 24th feature film - and off the back of yet more Oscar glory in last December’s terrific Soul - they hope to return once more to Disney+ with a rather special triumph.
Despite taking influence from and paying homage to the legendary Hayao Miyazaki and Federico Fellini, Enrico Casarosa’s coming of age fantasy Luca is actually a rather simple story. It sees young sea monster boy Luca (Jacob Tremblay) yearn for what lies above the ocean and when he one day meets one of his own kind in Alberto (Jack Dylan Grazer), a loner who has made his own home on the surface, he realises that he can assume a human form while on land, just as long as he doesn’t get wet!
This 50s set Italian Riviera tale may lack the groundbreaking innovation of some of Pixar’s range of classics but what it lacks in emotional complexity, it makes up for in its great big inclusive heart and the simple message of being yourself and not hiding for fear of judgment. Luca is a beautifully colourful Ghibli-esque blend of fantasy and Italian neorealism and is a film that is most welcome at this moment. What starts as a Little Mermaid-esque concept quickly becomes a great big ode to friendship, and the pre-love life experiences of childhood.
Luca’s developing bond with Alberto takes centre stage, as the two lads dream of being independent and going on an adventure, this dream leads the two to take the plunge and enter the nearby community where a gruelling summer triathlon event not only introduces them to enthusiastic local girl Giulia (Emma Berman) but to an unforgettable and lasting summer born kinship. In some ways - despite wildly different material - it is a little like the story of Stephen King’s It, where an unbreakable bond is formed in a summer filled with dreams and adventure (in this case there’s no killer clown though thankfully). All captured with trademark visual splendour, that aims for optimism and brightness over photorealism, and delightful music by Dan Romer.
The three kids at the core of the film are rather wonderful, and their union is filled with the relatable strains, fun and compassions of real friendship. There are also some great supporting characters in detestable local bully Ercole (Saverio Raimondo), and Luca’s affectionate but stressing mother Daniela (Maya Rudolph) and his well intentioned but easily distracted dad Lorenzo (Jim Gaffigan). Although some supporting players deserve a little more time to shine, especially Luca’s cool and rebellious Grandma Paguro (Sandy Martin) and Giulia’s bulking but heartfelt father Massimo (Marco Barricelli).
Not to mention one of our favourite ever Pixar supporting characters in Ugo (Sacha Baron Cohen), Luca’s unusual, darkness dwelling, part see-through uncle. In fact there is nowhere near enough Uno onscreen for our liking here and we are seriously hoping Pixar gives him his own short some time. He’s an all too brief eccentric show stealer up there with the likes of Roz, Evil Emperor Zurg, Edna Mode and Frozone!
Luca is unspeakably lovely, incredibly charming and a celebration of being yourself with the people who matter most and finding the good ones in life. If you have any doubts about checking Luca out on Disney+, just shout “Silencio Bruno” and dive on in! Oh, and keep those credits rolling for a nice array of ‘what Luca did next’ artwork and a post-credits treat!