REVIEW: Pixar’s ‘Luca’ is a winner

Pixar has another great movie on its resume.

The latest film from the Disney-owned studio takes place in and around a small town on the Italian Riviera. The titular character, voiced by Jacob Tremblay, is a young humanoid sea creature who lives beneath the waves with his mother (Maya Rudolph), father (Jim Gaffigan) and grandma (Sandy Martin). The family has a strict rule about not visiting the surface, as humans have been known to be dangerous, but Luca is fascinated by the world above.

At the film’s start, Luca is given a chance to explore the Italian turf when he meets another “sea monster,” Alberto (Jack Dylan Grazer). The duo become fast friends and, with growing frustration toward his parents’ rules, Luca decides to travel to the Italian village with Alberto, in human disguise. There, they become friends with a girl named Giulia (Emma Berman), who wants to enter a local triathlon.

“Luca” features a rather familiar story. A group of friends spend much of the movie preparing for a big competition where the story will ultimately have its big conclusion. It’s something that’s been used time and again in movies.

What separates “Luca” from the rest of the pack, though, is just how damn well this film is executed. While it’s true this movie doesn’t take on the “big questions” like the last Pixar movie, “Soul,” it’s absolutely brimming with heart.

It’s exceptionally easy to fall in love with this movie because of how charming and pure the whole experience is. It’s simple, but it has a big emotional impact.

Not only does the movie have a well executed story, it’s also heavily benefited by wonderful themes of acceptance and finding one’s place in the world.

The biggest shining point for this whole film, though, is its cast of characters, as well as their relationships.

Courtesy Disney and Pixar.

Luca is a wonderful protagonist, and watching his arc over the course of this feature is positively touching. His starry-eyed demeanor is quite endearing.

Alberto, meanwhile, is a great foil for Luca. He’s much more outgoing and adventurous than Luca. He also holds more of his deeper emotions inward, while Luca is more vocal about his feelings. He’s a wonderful contrasting character and co-protagonist.

The relationship between the two is absolutely critical to the film’s success, as well. The connection these two build over the course of the runtime is compelling and sincere. Seeing them interact is very enjoyable and it’s heart-wrenching to watch when their relationship hits snags.

The supporting characters are strong, too. Giulia is a wonderful, eccentric addition to the trio. She’s a burst of energy whenever she’s on screen and her friendship with both protagonists adds another layer of character depth to the film.

While they’re not given as prominent roles in the movie, Luca’s parents and grandma, as well as Giulia’s father, have some great moments, too.

As expected from Pixar, the animation also looks good. The water is lifelike and the movie has a vibrant aesthetic that captures the feeling of summer.

“Luca” may not have as much meat on the narrative bone as some of Pixar’s other greats, but this is still a phenomenal entry. Its emphasis on acceptance and delightful characters put it in the studio’s upper echelon. 4.75 out of 5.

Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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