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Luca Is Another Victory For Animation and Writing
Luca serves as another reminder of why Pixar has the reputation it does. Yes, stuff like The Good Dinosaur and the Cars franchise unsettled that a little, making it guesswork if the newest Pixar movie will be worth the time, but Luca is worth the time. Luca is mostly a delight of a film. I’m spoiling my conclusion here, so people who want no more information have the go-ahead if needed. Luca is flawed in some ways, but it’s a lot of fun.
For everyone who wants the critique part, Luca is uncomplicated excellence. It’s got a deep understanding of various emotions, wonderful animation, and potent storytelling. It’s a movie for anyone, regardless of age, with an easy-to-follow story about independence and exploration.
This Movie Is An Absolute Celebration Of Learning
It’s also the first Pixar movie in a long time to mostly be about humans in grounded situations. Yes, there’s a fantastical element: sea monsters. And yes, there are some cartoony or wild scenes. A few violent scenes, too, including, but not limited to, adults hurting children, spears being thrown by children at other children with murderous intent, and some worryingly dangerous behavior involving a cliffside. But the core story is about exploring and marveling at the world. Many films tout the joys of education or learning but with tepid framing. Luca is one of the few that really brings across the wonder inherent to living on this planet. The child-like joy of discovering what stars are. I don’t throw around the words “life-affirming” often, but Luca has an element of it.
It’s also a movie that deals with prejudice subtly but effectively. It’s interesting reviewing this now because Nimona (which I reviewed very recently) went a lot more pointed with a similar metaphor and handled it more precisely, while Luca more gestures at it amongst other plot ideas. The internet was abuzz with analyzing these metaphors when Luca was released, and I can see why. An LGBTQ+ reading of Luca is instantly understandable. Certain character reactions can be read as romantic jealousy or the beginning of a crush. But you could also apply the messaging in Luca to a lot of other topics, and I’m sure there are many more knowledgeable critics than I that could (and likely already have, I’m late to this party) do deep dives into how Luca could mirror a myriad of experiences.
Luca Uses Sea Monsters As A Multi-Part Metaphor
On that subject, though, I have to address that Luca is also heavily about Italian culture, and I don’t have the knowledge to know how much of what it’s presenting is a stereotype or accurate to the period. Pixar is known for doing a lot of research for its movies, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t include something that would be offensive or problematic somewhere. It’s easy to find Italian perspectives online for this film, and I encourage you to look into it.
As to the characters outside of that aspect, it’s a great cast that allows for an exploration of a lot of emotions. Luca didn’t quite make me cry like Onward or Coco did, but a few moments certainly left me misty-eyed. Maybe it’s because I know what to look for, but the clues are more obvious this time, and yet when the pivotal moment happens—as it always does in Pixar movies—it has all the impact it needs. Amidst a plot full of standing up to a jerk, exploring a town and the human world overall, and getting to know some of the town’s inhabitants, this movie repeatedly explores emotional growth.
The Core Characters Are So Fantastically Realized
Luca (voiced by Jacob Tremblay) has the most traditional arc in this sense, wanting simply more out of life and having scenes that heavily mirror Luke Skywalker’s in A New Hope. There was briefly, at the beginning of the movie, a risk of Luca (the character) being boring because of what has become cliches in fantasy storytelling, but his zeal for life and constant character growth makes him nigh-instantly likable. Giulia (voiced by Emma Berman) is a classic secondary character, full of energy and knowledge, but also plagued by failures in her past, both social and in a specific competition, and wants simply to make a better life—and it’s all too easy to empathize with that struggle. But it’s Alberto (voiced by Jack Dylan Grazer) with the most interesting emotional plot. He borders, several times, on being unlikable—but, the characterization and his hidden pain are presented so effectively, so honestly, with the voice acting getting it across so precisely, that he’s one of the most memorable animated child characters I’ve ever seen.
Alberto Steals Several Of The Best Scenes In Luca
Those moments highlighted, more than anything else, Luca’s major triumph: these characters feel remarkably like real people at their cores. Again, I don’t know if the cultural stuff is correct, but how they interact and care about each other is so emotionally engaging and ripped straight from realistic family dynamics, intergenerational conflicts, and how kids act around one another that it’s continuously riveting filmmaking. Ercole (voiced by Saverio Raimondo) feels like a real bully: petty, mean, power-hungry, but not granted much power outside his social circle. Grandmother Paguro (voiced by Sandy Martin) only gets a few lines, but clearly has a long life history and understands more than she lets on in a way that feels very true of certain older adults. Luca’s parents (the mom voiced by Maya Rudolph and the dad voiced by Jim Gaffigan) are especially interesting, especially for a kid’s movie. They’re imperfect and rash, but clearly and deeply care about their kid. But in terms of parent characters, Massimo (voiced by Marco Barricelli) is one of my favorite parent characters in recent memory because he bucks the trend of the overly serious father and is clearly, openly, ready to cheer on his daughter in anything she wants to do. He reminds me heavily, down to facial design, of the father in Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs, and I love that trend and that almost newly emerging archetype in fiction. I’ve already thrown around “life-affirming” in my description of this movie, but now I’ll add “heartwarming” to the pile.
This Movie Shows How To Write Emotional Scenes
It’s also got, once again, and I can never say this enough about recent Disney projects, incredible animation. The architecture, the water, the food, all of it is pure art. Luca and Luca (the character) have a habit of daydreaming, and while I’m not usually a fan of that as a storytelling method, it’s a great excuse for yet more amazing scenery. I muttered a variation of “Now you’re just showing off” during my viewing, and I can’t even be bothered by it. When you have people on a team that can render such vibrant, colorful scenes as these, then why wouldn’t you?
So, wrapping up, we arrive at the classic question: is there anything more to complain about? Not really. Not much. The scene where Luca’s parents beat up some children under the excuse of football is deeply odd to see in a kid’s movie, and not funny even in a slapstick sense. And there are some plot holes about how sea monsters work as a species—what counts as water seems to fluctuate—but otherwise it’s a lovely little film with a lot of joy and care put into making it. The pacing is perfect, the character motivations seamlessly change to new situations, and the ending is sublime. If you missed out on Luca, I deeply recommend you watch it.
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