VOD film review: Luca
Ivan Radford | On 20, Jun 2021
Director: Enrico Casarosa
Cast: Jacob Tremblay, Jack Dylan Grazer, Emma Berman
Where to watch Luca online in the UK: Disney+ / Apple TV (iTunes) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Virgin Movies / Rakuten TV / Google Play / Sky Store / CHILI
Sea monsters. The Italian Riviera. A small community that doesn’t trust outsiders and carries harpoons. Luca, the latest animated offering from Pixar, has all the ingredients of stormy, high-stakes thrills – but it emerges from the water with all the balmy understatement of a quiet weekend away on the coast. If that sounds like a disappointment, you’re reading the wrong holiday brochures.
From Brave and Inside Out to the original Toy Story, some of Pixar’s best outings over the past 25 years have been its smallest, if not its simplest, when the studio has turned away from sequels and instead spent time boiling down an idea to its essentials. Luca’s low-key charm lies in that lucidity; this is a beautifully painted portrait of acceptance, with no brush strokes superfluous or wasted.
Our sea monster hero (voiced by Jacob Tremblay) finds himself drawn from the sea to the surface, where he discovers that he takes on human form when dry. Encouraged by his new friend, Alberto (Jack Dylan Grazer), the duo venture into the coastal town to explore life on land – and, with a bit of luck, find a way to get their own Vespa. The idyllic concept of owning a scooter is as complex and ambitious as this tale gets, and if kids don’t get the appeal of zooming through the cobbled streets without a care in the world, they’ll certainly understand the excitement of disappearing into a bubble of friendship for the summer.
By brushing off the bigger picture, Luca lets us zoom in on the tiny details of a burgeoning young bond. With barely a frame without our lead characters in, it immerses us in the all-consuming nature of early friendship – and, in its most powerful scene, captures the poignant tragedy of how fragile that bubble can be when burst by the outside world. The adolescent tensions are driven by local girl Giulia (Emma Berman), who turns their double-act into a lopsided trio, and older teen Ercole (Saverio Raimondo), a wonderfully snooty, sweater-wearing bully.
The plot rattles along through a local race and a whole heap of pasta-eating. Director Enrico Casarosa (La Luna) brings it to life with striking sunsets, lulling waves and colourful houses, and a physicality to the characters that’s almost Aardman-like – a welcome departure from Pixar’s more typical animation style, one that gives Luca its own distinct tone and tactility. It’s less an animated epic and more a nostalgic pile of memories and fingerprint-covered photos .
Underneath all this is a gorgeous metaphor about hiding your true nature, and the code-switching and secret-sharing between Luca and Alberto is vividly visualised through their constant body transformations, which they try to conceal as their blue and green scales appear in paint-like splashes. Writers Jesse Andrews and Mike Jones don’t complicate things by being specific, and instead leave a surprising openness to that allegory, which could resonate with audiences going through any number of similar experiences or feelings of being an outsider. The result is a warm story of being yourself that won’t fail to bring a smile to your face. Dip a toe in the water and soak up the vibes.
Luca is available on Disney+, as part of a £7.99 monthly subscription or a £79.99 yearly subscription.