Another take: ReelBob: ‘Luca’ ★★★½
Pixar's latest animated feature is a colorful fish-out-of-water story about overcoming differences and discovering the commonality in everyone.
“Luca” is a fish-out-of-water fairy tale with a definite Italian flavor.
Pixar’s latest animated feature is actually more youthful “sea monster”-out-of-water than fish, but nothing in any way is monstrous about Luca, a young boy-creature whose curiosity about the surface world gets the better of him.
He rises above the water while chasing another young sea creature, Alberto, who introduces Luca to the wonders of the surface world.
Luca’s first shock is seeing how being on land transforms Alberto and him into humans. How that works is never explained, so you accept that it’s some sort of magic.
The older Alberto’s descriptions about land items he has found do not really jibe with reality, but the naive Luca becomes awed by Alberto’s knowledge.
What both boys crave is freedom. Alberto convinces Luca that traveling the globe would be a wondrous experience.
Alberto’s dream is to acquire a vespa so he can go where he wants. Alberto, who has been on his own for a very long time, invites Luca to join him.
They first build a vespa out of junk Alberto has stashed in his tower hideaway. When their contraption falls apart on its initial run, they decide to swim to a nearby town on the Italian Riviera to obtain one.
Of course, neither has any concept about money. In the town, they meet Giulia, who they eventually team with to enter a local triathlon to win the money to buy their vehicle.
Like many of Pixar’s animated features, “Luca” is about the underdogs; those who are looked down upon because they appear weaker or different from the rest.
In its storytelling, it also provides of echoes of Disney’s “The Little Mermaid.”
And, like several other movies aimed at younger audiences, it offers lessons in friendship, cooperation, courage and perseverance, which are woven into the story with humor and heart.
“Luca” is a celebration of Italian and Mediterranean culture and cuisine. And while some of the character’s Italian accents are as preposterous as Chico Marx’s — most notably that of the bullying Ercole Visconti (Saverio Raimondo) — the vast majority of vocal talent is inoffensive.
The animation palette highlights bright colors, and the score by Dan Romer is influenced by traditional Italian music.
Director Enrico Casarosa, who created the story with Jesse Andrews and Simon Stephenson and filmed a screenplay by Andrews and Mike Jones, loves the region and its people.
The story’s only shortcoming is that no reason is given for the townspeople’s fear of the “sea monsters” who dwell in the nearby waters. The irony is that those who live below the waters also are afraid of those who live on the surface.
Yet the movie offers no indication of any contact or animosity between the two groups.
Be that as it may, “Luca” is a fable about acceptance and choice.
The vocal talent includes Jacob Tremblay (“Room,” “Good Boys”) as Luca, Jack Dylan Grazer (“It,” “Shazam!”) as Alberto and Emma Berman, in her feature film debut, as Giulia. Abetting these young voices are voice veterans Maya Rudolph and Jim Gaffigan.
“Luca,” which debuts Friday on Disney+, is a splash of fresh air, a feature that reminds us that despite outward appearances, we all are the same inside.
I am a founding member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association. I review movies, 4K UHD, Blu-rays and DVDs for ReelBob (ReelBob.com), The Film Yap and other print and online publications. I can be reached by email at email@example.com. You also can follow me on Twitter @ReelBobBloom and on Facebook at ReelBob.com or the Indiana Film Journalists Association. My movie reviews also can be found at Rotten Tomatoes: www.rottentomatoes.com.
3½ stars out of 4
(PG), thematic elements, rude humor, brief violence, language