3.5 out of 5 Stars
Director: Enrico Casarosa
Writers: Jesse Andrews, Mike Jones
Starring: Jacob Tremblay, Jack Dylan Grazer, Maya Rudolph
Genre: Animated, Adventure
Rated: PG for rude humor, language, some thematic elements and brief violence
SALT LAKE CITY (KUTV) – Synopsis: Luca, a sea monster, has an unhealthy interest in the world that exists outside of the ocean. When he meets Alberto, a carefree sea creature with extensive experience with the outside world, Luca discovers the above-water world isn’t nearly what he expected it to be.
Review: At it’s heart “Luca” is a story about friendship and self-discovery. It is the universal tale of the outsider passing as “normal” while constantly living in the fear that their real identity will be revealed. It is about the tension that exists between male friends when they become fascinated with the same girl. It’s not the least bit subtle and it all ends predictably with a good message and group hug.
It’s just not very magical.
Pixar’s “Coco” was a vibrant celebration of Mexican culture centered on the Day of the Dead holiday and the spiritual connection that exists between the living and their dead ancestors. It was the kind of narrative that you couldn’t just pick up and drop into another culture and expect the results to be nearly as effective.
“Luca” was intended to be a celebration of Italian culture, but it doesn’t feel particularly Italian. In fact, it initially feels like a gender swapped “The Little Mermaid” without Ursula to offer a Faustian bargain before it finds its own narrative footing. But the universality of the film feels like a weakness. You could set “Luca” in Seattle, Washington, and it would essentially feel the same. It looks gorgeous and I love that Pixar continues to make animated films that aren’t interested in being completely photo realistic. They could do it. They choose not to. But as a cultural exploration “Luca” comes up short.
That said, if you already subscribe to Disney+, it’s absolutely worth a look.