Disney: ‘Luca’ Review

Screenshot from ‘Luca’ (2021). Copyright goes to The Walt Disney Company and Pixar.

Hey! Hallie here!

Pixar’s newest film just came out and it isn’t behind a pay wall! While that might not feel the greatest for Pixar, who’s movie ‘Soul’ also came out without a pay wall despite the fact that ‘Raya and the Last Dragon’ had one, it means it’s more accessible for a lot more people! I’m seeing somewhat mixed reviews for this film. While the general consensus seems positive, I see a lot of people quickly watering down their positive comments with the caveat that it doesn’t quite live up to expectations. And with Studio Ghibli as a major inspiration for ‘Luca’ (The name of the town is Portorosso after ‘Porco Rosso’), it does have a lot to live up to. So is it worth an immediate watch or is it a movie you could pass up without much thought? SPOILERS ahead!

The Good:

The Main Characters: This movie has an incredibly likable cast. Luca is our main character and he’s a joy to follow throughout the story. He starts out as a self proclaimed “good kid”. He’s cautious and unwilling to step outside his comfort zone. Unlike Ariel, he isn’t obsessed with the world above. He believes all of the horrible stories his parents tell him about the human world, or at least he’s unwilling to disobey them to figure out if they’re true. Until he meets Alberto. Alberto steals trinkets from human boats. The items lure Luca out onto land and then we get to see just how enthusiastically curious Luca is. He believes everything Alberto says about the world, even when his ideas are flawed, and he wants to learn more. The first full day he spends with Alberto he helps him build a complete Vespa replica simply because of how wondrous Alberto makes them seem. Alberto, for his part, is a bit conceited in his confidence. But he has a big heart and he’s happy to encourage Luca to become more confident as well. When Luca is nearly sent away by his parents, Alberto is quick to take him in and take Luca to the nearby town to hide out. This is where they meet our third main character, Guilia. Guilia is the most reasonable and resilient of the kids. Within her town she’s treated like she doesn’t belong because she only spends summers in Portorosso while living with her father. But she still enters in the major race that occurs in the town every summer and she’s determined to win it. The three kids bounce off of each other very well. I think my favorite thing about all of them is how realistic of kids they are. They speak like kids. Their excitement for things like riding bikes and reading books comes with an innocence that reflects kids very well. And they’re all flawed in ways that kids are. Luca wants so badly to feel accepted that he throws Alberto under the bus. Alberto gets in a fight with Ercole simply because he isn’t willing to walk away when his pride is in question. Guilia is so high energy that she has to apologize multiple times for being too fast to keep up with. I loved all of the characters, especially because of their flaws.

The Main Friendship: While Guilia is a main character, the main friendship is between Luca and Alberto. It’s actually a very complex relationship too. Luca becomes friends with Alberto because Alberto shows him how to leave his comfort zone and embrace his courage. And Luca likes that. In fact, he relies on it for the entire movie. Meanwhile, Alberto needs someone to hold him in place. He partly likes Luca because Luca isn’t the type of person to move on quickly. His dependence on Alberto means he can’t run off on his own. And Alberto needs that because his father abandoned him. While these aren’t the only reasons why they like each other, they display clear needs each of them seek in their friendship. The movie also displays that these needs can’t be completely fulfilled by people who have their own needs and wants. Alberto and Luca help each other find the places they feel they truly belong, but by the end of the movie it means they have to separate. Luca’s desire to continue pushing past his boundaries sees him going to school with Giulia. Meanwhile, Alberto’s anchor comes in the form of Guilia’s father, Massimo. The fact that they go their separate ways at the end of the movie is heartbreaking, but it’s so perfect for their friendship and their characters that I couldn’t help but feel satisfied when I saw it.

The Art: This isn’t your regular Pixar art. Not only is this movie intensely colorful, but it has a bit of a Studio Ghibli feel. Everything in the movie feels like it’s a sketch come to life. The detail in the natural scenery, and especially in the scaled look of the sea monsters, draws you in. There’s just something about this movie that makes it obvious the artists behind it had an amazing time creating it, and I see that most often in Studio Ghibli films.

Massimo: Just a big shoutout to this amazing father. He hunts sea monsters, but the instant he figures out that Luca and Alberto are sea monsters he stands behind them and starts eyeballing everyone with a harpoon. Why? Because they’re practically his kids and he cares for them. When Alberto goes missing he becomes so concerned that he goes out looking for him after dark. He starts eating pasta with his hands because that’s what Luca and Alberto do. And with his own daughter, he shows up to the race with a huge hand-made sign with her name on the front. Also, I have to point out how amazing it is to see this man born with one arm being shown as the most badass and capable person in the movie. We don’t see that enough.

The Bad:

The Possible LGBTQ+ Representation: Before this movie came out there was a lot of speculation that Luca and Alberto would wind up being queer, or at least queer coded. This was spread so much that the movie earned the fan-made title, ‘Pixar Call Me By Your Name’. I hesitate to say that the lack of any LGBTQ+ content is a major issue with this movie. The lack of LGBTQ+ content is a major issue with the entirety of Disney and this movie doesn’t cover romantic relationships at all. But I also can’t say it isn’t disappointing to see another movie go by without any LGBTQ+ representation. Especially because this movie’s sea monster issue resembles the hardships of the LGBTQ+ community so well. ‘Luca’s message is about embracing who you are and finding those who will accept you for your differences. And the hostile way the town of Portorosso treats sea monsters absolutely looks like the hostility directed at queer individuals. Even the scene where Alberto is revealed as a sea monster and Luca pretends to be disgusted by him out of fear feels painfully real. There was a good set up here but it was passed over. Again. And maybe this movie never intended to address LGBTQ+ issues, but it’s frustrating to see another opportunity passed by.

Overall, I really enjoyed this movie. And there’s no caveats here. Maybe it doesn’t live up to Studio Ghibli’s best, but that’s an incredibly high standard to hold a movie to. Maybe I wouldn’t say this is my favorite Pixar movie, but it’s up there. It doesn’t feel like a mediocre Pixar offering in the least. I’d even say it’s my favorite Pixar movie since ‘Coco’. I’d absolutely recommend watching this!

Don’t do anything fun until I get back!

Hallie

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