“There’s a million things you think you can’t do. All you need is a chance to try.”
Following the existential questioning of Soul and the surprisingly emotional fantasy quest of Onward, the 24th feature from the animation powerhouse is a much simpler outing, transporting you to the colourful and picturesque fishing villages of the Italian Riviera. The film is scheduled to be released direct-to-streaming on Disney+ later this week, and with the beautiful setting filled with nostalgia harking back to European summer holidays, this is the perfect little film for the whole family to enjoy when school’s over.
Directed by Academy Award® nominee Enrico Casarosa (La Luna), Luca centres on the titular young sea creature (voiced by Jacob Tremblay) and his newfound friend Alberto (voiced by Jack Dylan Grazer) as they experience an unforgettable summer together. Venturing beyond the safety of the underwater realm, the two head out to the local town of Portorosso in search of real Vespas, befriending local girl Giulia (Emma Berman) along the way. In order to buy their dream scooter, the duo team up with Guilia to compete in the annual triathlon competition – consisting of biking, swimming and pasta-eating – all the while trying to keep their secret identities hidden.
Luca is an incredibly charming and surprisingly unassuming coming-of-age tale, which is one of Pixar’s most child-friendly adventures since Cars and Toy Story. While the studios’ signature emotional narrative takes somewhat of a back seat, there’s something refreshing about Casarosa’s more simplistic approach to storytelling, opting for a new twist on the fish-out-of-water story. Taking a leaf out of Studio Ghibli’s co-founder Hayao Miyazaki’s book, this is a much more gently-paced instalment, harking back to the simpler days of our youth, full of daydreams. Luca is undoubtedly a sweet love-letter to Italy, the nostalgia of childhood summer holidays and the special friendships we make along the way. While some may tune out at the relatively low-stakes of the flick, it’s hard not to be swept away by the the big-hearted, and often amusing, celebration of underdogs.
Filled with quirky and endearing characters, and plenty of fun and light-hearted humour, Jack Dylan Grazer and Jacob Tremblay prove a great central dynamic. Massimo (Marco Barricelli), Giulia’s father and one-armed fisherman and his brilliantly mustachioed cat, prove a real highlight, along with a fun but brief cameo from Sacha Baron Cohen as Luca’s Uncle Ugo. The young creature’s parents, voiced by Maya Rudolph and Jim Gaffigan are unfortunately underwritten, but their antics throwing water bombs at the town’s young children does prove an amusing sequence.
The beautiful and vibrant animation, once again inspired by the hand-drawn works of Miyazaki (the town Portorosso is even a direct reference to Ghibli flick Porco Rosso), colourfully brings to life this wonderful region of Europe. The vivid pastels of the Italian fishing village, along with the glorious blues and greens of the underwater farm, wholly transport you into the two differing realms. The film truly comes to life in the more dynamic action sequences, particularly as Luca and Alberto race their bundled together Vespa down a terrifying hill and over a home-made ramp, along with a sweet, shared moment as they jump and dive under and over the water, transforming from their true selves back to their human selves in-between. The character designs are much more stylised as opposed to the studio’s usual pull towards realism, instead opting for more rounded and exaggerated features – particularly the noses and the mouths – harking back to Aardman characters. The end-credit sketches are also a real delight!
With a sweet and simple tale of friendship brought to life by stunning animation, Luca is a joyful adventure for the whole family. While it lacks the emotional depth of previous instalments, the charming characters and the tons of sun, gelato and pasta more than make up for it!
Luca releases June 18 on Disney+