Luca is the latest film from Pixar and the first Disney+ Original since February’s Flora & Ulysses. With a four-month gap with two Premiere Access films and no free originals, Disney+ is starting to feel quite empty without a steady flow of feature-length exclusives that you don’t have to pay for. Additionally, since this is the second Pixar film in a row (after Soul), some opinions from within Pixar have leaked to the public, with some employees stating that they’re upset that they don’t seem good enough for a cinema release or even Premiere Access.
While I think Soul would have done well with a cinema release instead of becoming a Disney+ Original (although I have to say that its Christmas Day release was genius), Luca certainly fits in as Disney+ Original. That’s not to say it’s bad or “TV quality” like many of Netflix’s feature originals, but because it’s the type of movie you can put on after a long day during this summer season. It’s wholesome, warming, and will make you want to go to the beach!
The Fish Out Of Water Tale
It tells the story of Luca Paguro, a thirteen-year-old sea monster who suffers from the same thing Ariel from The Little Mermaid has, an overwhelming curiosity about the humans and the land they live on, which is considered an irrational obsession to their friends and family. One day Luca meets another sea monster named Alberto, who shows him what life is like out of the water.
Not only is Luca one of the best Disney+ Original Movies, but one of the best Pixar films – period. It has all the themes the other Pixar classics have – great friendships, familial love, adventure, and humour, to name a few, and yet it still manages to be an original take on the “fish out of water” story. Surprisingly, it’s doesn’t have that now pivotal Pixar moment that will be having you reach for the tissues. Yes, some moments will attempt to pull at your heartstrings, but they’re nothing to cry about. This might be a bit of a disappointment for some fans, but personally, I found it really refreshing that Luca is nothing but an innocently sweet coming-of-age fantasy.
I’ve been extremely critical of Pixar in the past. I would even dare say that they can sometimes be emotionally manipulative with sad scenes that seem rather forced and unnecessary – one particular scene in Finding Dory comes to mind. But the big emotional scene in Luca is when we get to learn the truth behind one character. You’ll know which scene I’m referring to when you watch the film, as it feels like it’s leading up to a big emotional moment. And yet, the scene manages to keep the emotion consistent with the rest of the film rather than turning into melodrama. Although, the reveal itself is quite predictable, which may either soften the blow or ruin the moment if you do manage to guess.
A School of Voices
The voice cast comprises many talented voice actors, including Maya Rudolph, Jim Gaffigan, Sandy Martin, Marco Barricelli, and Sacha Baron Cohen, and they all give equally fantastic performances. But I’m only going to speak about the main trio because they shined through despite the great supporting cast.
The leading trio couldn’t have been more perfectly cast, with Jacob Tremblay (Jack from Room), Jack Dylan Grazer (Eddie from IT), and newcomer Emma Berman voicing Luca, Alberto, and Giulia.
Tremblay and Grazer bounce incredibly well off of each other and manage to invoke the comradery that only long-time best friends have. They become so close as the film goes on that their relationship transcends that of just best friends and crosses into a brotherhood. Yeah, sorry to those on Twitter who were hoping for them to be boyfriends. It’s clear throughout that they share a love that only long-term best friends have. Also, the age gap between the lead characters would make such a relationship inappropriate. You can take some comfort in knowing that almost all of the characters aren’t even implied to be straight.
As for Luca and Giulia. I didn’t really see them as a couple by the end of the film, and there isn’t really anything that strays past admiration, which I loved because not every lead character needs a love interest!
Pixar Nets Some Great New Talent
Tremblay and Grazer are joined by relative newcomer, Emma Burman who plays Giulia, a human girl who takes the two under her wing and the close watch of her father, Marco. As much as I loved Tremblay and Grazer, I do have to say that Burman may have outshone them, even if by only a bit.
When Giulia made her first appearance, I was sceptical about whether or not I’ll like her. That feeling vanished soon after because Giulia is the loud and outgoing character this film needed. She fits perfectly within the trio as a “Hermione Granger” type character and uses her knowledge to help Luca learn more about the human world. I assumed Giulia was voiced by an older actress with a list of credits. Imagine my surprise when I visited her IMDB and saw that Emma Burman teenager with only two acting credits.
An Admiration for Animators
I also want to praise Pixar a little more because, first of all, can we please appreciate Pixar’s art style change! They get a lot of shit for using some variation of the same style, and Luca is a great departure. Yes, you can still tell Luca is a Pixar film, and there are some characters in their usual style, but most of the characters look more like Aardman Animation characters than Pixar.
The second load of praise I have to give is how this film was made at home. Sure, the animators took their work and equipment home, but meetings and all other cooperation and interaction had to take place via phone calls and video chats, and also because we all know how distracting home can be! With the distraction of children and other family members, pets, and the whole anxiety of a pandemic. You have to give a round of applause to all involved for pushing through and creating such a wonderful movie under harsher circumstances.
That goes to all animators, no matter the animation studio and even those working outside the industry! Unfortunately, creative jobs and creators are among those most affected financially by the pandemic, and many governments are refusing to help struggling creators, many of who have lost their jobs. And yet, despite all of this, creators continue with the art they love and develop such great works, and Luca is an example of that.
Luca is a charming film for all ages that I hope will be considered a Pixar classic alongside Toy Story, Monsters Inc., and WALL-E in the future.
It will be available to stream on Disney+ from June 18th, 2021. It will be released theatrically in countries where Disney+ is not yet available.