Basic Synopsis and Introduction
Pixar’s Luca is an original animated film set in a charming town on the Italian Riviera. It follows the titular character, a young sea monster named Luca, as he explores the human world with his new friends. To avoid spoilers, I’m not going to dive too deep into the actual plot of Luca. Instead, I want to focus on things like connections I saw between this and other films, along with what I thought was great about the movie and what I thought could be improved.
The film opens with two older fishermen listening to Italian opera on a boat and debating the existence of sea monsters while a sea monster steals trinkets off of their boat. It then cuts to Luca searching for his herd of goatfish. Adorable. The colors, textures, lighting, and everything down to the tiny particles floating in the water…it’s all just stunning. But what else would we expect from Pixar at this point? From there, it follows Luca as he meets new friends, deals with his overprotective (but loving) family, and explores the human world.
Throughout the film, I saw multiple connections between Luca and other Disney and Pixar films. The most obvious connection is with The Little Mermaid. This time, instead of one young mermaid, we have two young sea monsters. One is a self-proclaimed human expert (our Skuttle stand-in) named Alberto and has the same habit of collecting human trinkets as Ariel. The other, Luca, shares Ariel’s curiosity about the human world and longing to explore past their home. However, Luca is much more cautious than Ariel. The next similarity I saw was the overlapping between the Little Mermaid and Moana. Like Ariel’s and Moana’s fathers, Luca’s parents are extremely protective of Luca and fear the world beyond their own. But like Moana’s grandmother supporting her curiosity with the ocean, Luca’s grandmother supports his curiosity with the human world and covers for him.
When Luca first goes on land, we’re treated to a scene similar to Rapunzel’s first time outside of her tower. After learning to walk, we see a short montage of Luca doing things on land. But also, like Rapunzel, we see Luca having doubts and feeling guilty about leaving home. Luca and Alberto then enter the town of Portorosso, where they meet Ercole and Giulia. Through them, they learn of the Portorosso Cup, a triathlon that the rest of the movie’s plot is interwoven with. Ercole is like a combination of Gaston from Beauty and the Beast and Chick Hicks from Cars reincarnated as a teenage Italian boy.
Ercole is the five-time winner of the Portorosso Cup. It seems like, at least at first, he was respected for winning but has since abused that respect until it turned to fear and intimidation. Like Gaston, Ercole seems to rule the town (or at least its youth) through this mixture of admiration, intimidation, and fear. Later, we see more similarities between him and Gaston as well as similarities to Chick Hicks. We see full well just how far Ercole will go to win during the race itself, which also gives us a moment similar to Cars where Lightning McQueen stops during the Piston Cup to help a fellow racer that had been sabotaged by Hicks. Giulia, on the other hand, is very similar to Ellie from Up. Both characters are highly spirited, adventurous tomboys with “hideouts,” and both help the main protagonists come out of their shells and grow as characters.
Overall, I found Luca both adorable and refreshing. While not entirely without its twists and dramatic moments, it was nowhere near as heavy as other films Pixar has put out over the years. It was light-hearted and fun with an uplifting overall theme of acceptance. It had touching family moments between Giulia and her father and between Luca and his family, as well as some genuinely hilarious moments. Especially when Luca’s parents were looking for him in Portorosso. It also had excellent character development for most of the characters.
I do say most and not all. First of all, Ercole’s underlings and the town’s children, in general, do finally get fed up with his behavior and stand up to him, but there is no indication that he learned anything or that he will change. More importantly, though, is Luca’s family. We never really get any sense of the history of the underwater world or exactly why Daniella is so afraid of humans.
We know her mother is not afraid of the “land monsters,” as she states at the beginning of the movie that she has been to the surface and has even played cards with humans. She and Luca’s father, Lorenzo, have some growth and learn to accept the human world and Luca’s desire to be a part of it. Unfortunately, though, without knowing why they were so afraid to begin with (especially when Luca’s grandmother wasn’t), their growth ultimately falls flat.
Ultimately, I thoroughly enjoyed Luca. It’s a fun movie, and I will definitely watch it again and recommend it to others. I give it a 4/5. Let me know if you’d like to see a more in-depth review or if there are any other movies, shows, or books you would like to see a review of in the future.