I genuinely mark Pixar films by greatness if they make me break down into sobs like a little baby. Most of them have, and Luca is no exception to that rule. A beautiful little film about two young sea monsters who connect over their mutual love of Vespas and the human world, the internal logic of its magic is a little fuzzy, but it’s well worth a viewing for its heartwarming story about friendship and shared passions and family alone.
While it ties up its additional lesson about prejudice a little too neatly, that’s no reason to scoff at it: Luca is not meant to be a film that solves all the world’s problems. It’s a kids’ film through and through, but with that Pixar magic that allows it to appeal to adults as well as children. While it starts out as a little too similar to Finding Nemo, it quickly diverges from Nemo’s path, and it stands on its own as one of Pixar’s smaller, if still excellent, works.
The excellent voice casting such as familiar Americans like Jacob Tremblay, Maya Rudolph, and Jim Gaffigan and less familiar Italians like Marco Barricelli only enhances a film filled with likable characters. I should note, however, that my favorite character was the cat, Machiavelli, who has no lines, but who might be one of the most genuinely hilarious side characters Pixar has put out. As always, the animation is beautiful, especially anything in the water — but we already knew Pixar could do that, so.
Luca doesn’t seem to take place in any particularly notable time, but its place is a little sea village in Italy, or Italia, as some of its characters would exclaim furiously. There are moments where the so-called Italians seem a little exaggerated, but it’s not a subtle film, nor was it meant to be. Any subtleties are in the little details, like the fact that the human Giulia’s (Emma Berman) parents are separated, or that the sea monster Alberto’s (Jack Dylan Grazer) father just straight up abandoned him.
The titular Luca is a fun main character, although some will certainly sigh that he’s yet another male main character in Pixar’s stock of, well, mostly male main characters. It’s a legitimate complaint, and hopefully, Pixar will give us some girls as main characters in the future, but on its own merits, Luca as both a film and as the titular character is endearing and a permissible hour and a half of good feelings and imaginative worldbuilding and storytelling.
Luca debuts on Disney+ and in theaters June 18th!