Review: Luca

Luca (2021)

Director: Enrico Casarosa

Writers: Jesse Andrews, Mike Jones, Enrico Casarosa, and Simon Stephenson

Starring: Jacob Tremblay, Jack Dylan Grazer, Emma Berman, Marco Barricelli, Saverio Raimondo, Maya Rudolph, and Jim Gaffigan

Plot: Two friends explore a human town, where they have to hide the fact that they’re sea creatures.

Review: You know what’s gotta be tough? Being a just very good Pixar movie? It’s just not fair. The studio has been cranking out masterpiece after masterpiece for the last 26 years. So much so that they’re “just” very good movies end up getting swept under the rug. When a movie like Luca gets released, the headlines say it’s “Lacking the Pixar Charm” or “One of the Studio’s Weaker Efforts” and people toss it aside, even though it’s still better than like 75% of animated movies. And I really, really don’t think that’s fair. Luca deserves to be seen by as many people as possible, because it’s still a super solid movie.

But, I’m also not going to pretend it’s a masterpiece. The reviews aren’t over exaggerating when they say that this is a weaker entry. It’s probably their least creative endeavor since The Good Dinosaur in 2015. While the story is great, it just doesn’t feel exciting and new like many of Pixar’s best. I’d say that it’s closer to Brave, which told a very good version of a familiar tale. There’s no breaking ground here. It’s a story you’ve heard variations of before. Essentially, teenage kid lusts for a life outside of his normal space, meets someone who can give it to him, and then has to hide who he truly is while working towards that goal. Without going into spoilers, I’m sure you can more or less figure out where it goes from there. Like I said, there’s nothing wrong with it. People recycle stories over and over. It just feels different because this is Pixar. We hold them to a higher standard, whether fair or not.

Unfortunately, that was my thought process through the first half. I kept comparing Luca to other Pixar movies and, while I was enjoying myself, the movie was suffering for it. Then, I made a conscious decision to put that aside. Not that it was hard to do, because these characters are super engaging. Luca and Alberto are the perfect representation of friendship at that age. They bond instantly, hang out constantly, do dangerous stuff, share the same ambitions in life, and have each other’s back 100%. But, they also represent the hard times that come with a relationship that strong, like the awkwardness of someone bringing in a third member or how it feels when those life goals start to differ. You know? Stuff every middle schooler goes through at some point. It’s really one of the most realistic portrayals of friendship I’ve seen in a kids’ movie. I’m glad that it exists to show them they’re not alone. By the end, I was so attached to these characters that the movie actually made me cry. (For those keeping score at home, I think this is like the 20th Pixar movie that’s achieved that goal.)

Also, to call this movie bad or even average in any sort of way would be an insult. While most everything has been done before, it’s rarely done this well. Even when Pixar “phones it in” they’re better storytellers than most. The characters are more likeable. The animation is gorgeous. The gags are all hilarious. And, scenes you’ve watched a million times before are just executed better here. For example, there’s a scene where Luca learns about the human world through reading. He discovers the work of Da Vinci, Pinocchio, and what’s beyond our planet. Every fish out of water (pun kinda intended) story has a montage like this, but this one is a beautifully put together dream-like sequence that put the biggest smile on my face. That’s the Pixar difference. That’s what makes A Bug’s Life better than Antz. What makes The Good Dinosaur better than Dinosaur. And what makes Luca better than the dozens of other movies you can compare it to. There’s just too much charm to write off.

Overall, I really liked Luca. I think it’s a really good version of a story we’ve heard before. The characters are what really brings it home though. I loved the lead characters so much. Plus, there’s a ton of Pixar charm here, even if it’s not quite as much as we’re used to getting.

TL;DR: Even though it’s definitely one of Pixar’s weaker movies, it’s not fair to write off the touching and entertaining charm Luca brings to the table.

Score: 8/10 (Great)

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