The latest Pixar movie is cute, but a little bland.
The sea creature Luca dreams of a life on the surface, a desire that is only reinforced by the fact that his strict parents forbid him to set foot among people. But when Luca meets Alberto, a sea creature who now lives on land, an equally unexpected friendship grows and summer becomes something to remember. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the me, the viewer, as the monster twist is not enough to freshen up this in most regards old, beaten-to-death kids-story.
Luca is wonderfully coloured, atmospheric, beautiful, cosy and cute in it's simplicity and fairy-tale-sweet aesthetic. Italian radio classics crackle in the background while the people of Portorosso create a beautiful backdrop that sparkles with warmth and bright, summery colours.
But that storytelling magic from Pixar is unfortunately missing here, that really emotional punch that has graced all of the studio's best cinematic moments. Of course, it may sound unfair to compare with the great works of Toy Story and Ratatouille, now that both Disney and Pixar are comfortable with not living up to its original reputation, but therein really lies the problem with today's Pixar experiences: they are a little too comfortable, too confident in their narration, so the emotionally loaded consequences are absent as a result. This has been the case with Soul, Toy Story 4, Onward and now Luca... And I would really like to see them get back to their old self.
Still, I do not want to sound too harsh here, as it is basically an inoffensive story that is riddled with fun little details, and the Oscar-nominated La Luna design on the characters is easy for me to appreciate. How can you as a viewer not enjoy the Italian Mediterranean coast?
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Audio-visually, Luca feels like a nice, refreshing swim in the sea with a bit of idyllic Miyazaki sprinkles and dreamy Fellini features that continue to demonstrate the animators' skills. The tempo is high (although the introduction is a bit to stressed), the comedy is fun, Luca's vivid dreams are pure eye candy and the obvious love for the boot shaped country's cultural delicacies and values are good enough to captivate me.
However, if you want to be picky, I have a bit of a hard time with films where children do not really talk like children, where modern sarcasm does not really go hand in hand with that timeless 60's nostalgia that director Enrico Casarosa so carefully tries to re-create. I also dislike when movies start revolving around a competition, which often bores me when there are actually so many more engaging side stories and characters here.
In the end, Luca is a mixed bag that, like Soul, Toy Story 4 and Onward, does not really reach Pixar's previous greatness and emotionally, the adults can probably get a little bored of the film's predictable dramaturgy. At the same time, it is a fun-filled family adventure. So if you do not have the opportunity to visit beaches this summer, Luca is a nice alternative to cool off in the living room.
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Luca will be available via Premier Access on Disney Plus on June 18.