Pixar films have become a staple of the annual movie release schedule. Since Toy Story wowed audiences in November 1995 (thanks to its groundbreaking CG animation at the time), the studio has released at least one feature film per year for the past 26 years, except six.
Such a turnaround could have resulted in a drop in quality – but not with Pixar. The Disney affiliate has produced critically acclaimed films on a regular basis, including Oscar-winning films like Finding Nemo and Inside Out, which have captivated moviegoers for nearly three decades.
Luca, however, has more to do than just meet the expectations of the fans. Pixar’s latest animated feature is the first to be produced remotely (due to the Covid-19 pandemic) and, as a result, some movie aficionados might fear that Luca is not reaching the heights of his predecessors. .
Fortunately, all potential fears are unfounded. Luca is a delightful, friendship-driven adventure packed with all the charm, humor, emotional punches, and innovative animation style viewers expect from a Pixar movie.
Sun, sand and sea monsters
Set on the Italian Riviera in the 1950s, Luca tells the story of Luca Paguro (Jacob Tremblay), a shy and lonely teenager who dreams of living an adventurous life.
That is, until he meets Alberto (Jack Dylan Grazer) confident and free-spirited. The duo quickly become inseparable and embark on an impulsive journey to the fictional seaside town of Portorosso in search of the ultimate summer experience.
Luca and Alberto, however, hide a dark secret: They are sea monsters (although they can transform into humans on land), who have been hunted by the inhabitants of Portorosso for generations.
Forced to keep their identities a secret from the townspeople, including Giulia Marcovaldo (Emma Berman), her fisherman father Massimo (Marco Barricelli) and local tyrant Ercole Visconti (Saverio Raimonde), it doesn’t take long before Luca and Alberto get together. literally find themselves out of their depth. and metaphorically.
Right off the bat, what jumps out at Luca’s plot is that it’s lighter than other recent Pixar productions. That’s not to say that the studio’s latest film is always packed with moments that will touch your heart; it’s just that they’re not as heavy or pronounced here.
So Luca isn’t quite as mature or dark as Soul or Coco, who have explored life, death, and existence – but it doesn’t have to be. With its summery decor, its tendency to escape, and its emphasis on the budding friendship of Luca and Alberto, Luca acts as a nostalgic window to see our own childhood through. It captures the curiosity we had in trying new things (and doing them through fear) and the freedom to have no responsibility.
In that sense, Luca’s story will really resonate with adult viewers, but there’s plenty to keep kids entertained as well. Luca is full of fun moments – Luca’s uncle and Giulia’s cat Macchiavelli make them laugh every time they’re on screen – and, while the film’s sets are on par with the course, they’re nice enough to retain all the attention of the young viewer.
Ghibli vibes and casting calls
Stylistically, Luca has all the hallmarks of a Pixar movie (it’s bright, colorful, and beautifully animated), but what sets it apart from its predecessors is what inspired its aesthetic.
Luca’s pictorial and manga-inspired characters and backgrounds are reminiscent of Hayao Miyazaki’s catalog, and you can see (and feel) how the legendary Japanese animator and director inspired the look of Pixar’s latest film.
Subtle nods to animation studios Aardman (Wallace & Gromit, Chicken Run) and Wes Anderson (Isle of Dogs, Moonrise Kingdom) are also noticeable and, mixed with the influence of Miyazaki and the age of 1950s Italian cinema gold – with an authentic, Italian-style score by Dan Romer – Luca’s appearance is unique but recognizable. It’s an art style Pixar has never experimented with before, but it works and helps Luca visually stand out from his Pixar peers.
Speaking of “standing out,” Luca’s young cast does just that. The chemistry between Luca de Tremblay and Alberto de Grazer feels natural and authentic, while Emma Berman shines in her first big movie role as outgoing bookworm Giulia.
What’s most impressive about Luca’s teenage cast, however, is that all three (as well as the adult cast in the film) recorded their entire home performances as a by-product. of the pandemic.
With no other voice actor to bounce back during the recording process, the biggest compliment you can give Luca’s young acting trio is that it doesn’t show in the scenes they share together. . Luca, Alberto and Giulia riffle each other so well it’s indistinguishable, and you really feel like the three actors were actually recording lines side by side in a studio.
It’s also nice that Pixar chose Tremblay, Grazer and Berman to play Luca. It’s been four years since a young actor directed a Pixar movie (Anthony Gonzalez in Coco) and it would have been easy for the studio to bring in more experienced actors to take on these roles, as he did in Onward. Last year. As it stands, Tremblay and the other actors help accentuate the childish charm and intrigue that Luca seeks.
What we think
Luca is a charming love letter to Italy and to the friendships that forge us. Through her wonderful, fantastic coming-of-age story, Luca explores the power of childhood friendships, accepting who you are and, ultimately, what makes us the people we are today. .
Designing and developing a movie during a global pandemic is (by everyone’s opinion) extremely difficult, so Pixar deserves immense credit for making another very resonant, humorous, and wonderfully animated feature film. Better yet, you can just stream it on Disney Plus without paying anything extra.
It might not be as thematically dense as Soul, and it also won’t topple Toy Story, Monsters Inc, or The Incredibles in many fans’ top three Pixar lists.
Luca, however, is the summer-steeped fantasy film about escape and friendship that we need right now – and that’s just enough.
Luca will launch exclusively on Disney Plus on Friday, June 18.