LUCA Review; "Heaps Of Colour Aren’t Enough To Disguise An Uninspired Animation Style And Story"

LUCA Review; "Heaps Of Colour Aren’t Enough To Disguise An Uninspired Animation Style And Story"

Luca arrives on Disney+ this Friday, but it's a movie that sees Pixar sink to its lowest depths for an adventure that fails to maintain the level of quality set by recent releases like Onward and Soul...

There are three types of Pixar movies: the instant classics, the ones that are really good or at least somewhere in the middle, and then those that are so middle of the road, you’d be forgiven for not even realising they were made by the studio behind Toy Story, Up, and Coco. Unfortunately, Luca falls somewhere between the latter two categories; every bit as inoffensive and forgettable as The Good Dinosaur or the Cars sequels, it’s by no means bad, but it certainly doesn’t leave much of a lasting impression. 

The animation style is definitely a departure for the Disney-owned studio, but that’s not necessarily a good thing. Landing between an Aardman movie and something you’d see from Nickelodeon, it’s not an overly exciting movie to look at beyond being extremely colourful. That does at least help the visuals pop, but this is still probably the blandest movie splashed with so much colour you’ll ever see. The beautiful Italian village of Portorosso fades into the background (though there is a tremendous amount of detail on screen), and the biggest tragedy may be the fact that the ocean the movie’s sea monsters call home is so...boring. After the sort of worlds we saw dreamed up in movies like Coco, Soul, and Onward, it’s baffling that Luca’s home is just a murky blue background scattered with rocks. It may be realistic, but it says something when a movie like Aquaman manages to top a Pixar title in terms of visuals. 

On the plus side, there is a very sweet story at the centre of Luca. Writers Jesse Andrews and Mike Jones don’t really hit any beats that aren’t instantly familiar, but it’s easy to get invested in Luca’s budding friendship with fellow sea monster Alberto and how things then progress (particularly when they meet human girl, Giulia). The premise never gets more exciting than the trio’s desire to enter a race and win some money so they can explore the world around them and put a local bully in his place, and it’s simply not a strong enough idea to make Luca feel like much more than a passing distraction. With a distinct lack of fresh ideas from both a visual and story standpoint, this feature directing debut for Enrico Casarosa doesn’t feel like a great investment on Pixar’s part, and it’s easy enough to understand why it’s landed on Disney+ for free. 
 


The idea that sea monsters rise from the depths and take on a human appearance on land feels like one of those genius concepts that only Pixar could dream up. There’s no denying that Luca has some fun with that (when one of the boys gets wet and has to hide their true nature, for example), but it’s never explored beyond a surface level and is too quickly thrown aside for training montages and moments you’ll see coming from oceans away.

Jacob Tremblay, Jack Dylan Grazer, and Emma Berman make for a fine leading trio, and effortlessly get us invested in the relationship and dynamic their characters form as Luca progresses. Looking at the wider supporting cast, Marco Barricelli is an entertaining addition, though the same can’t be said for Jim Gaffigan and Maya Rudolph. Luca’s parents are as irritating to watch as they are for him to have to deal with. Sacha Baron Cohen makes a fun cameo appearance, but as his voice is barely recognisable, that’s unlikely to raise more than a brief smile. 

On the one hand, it would be easy to forgive Luca due to its colourful palette and an admittedly sweet story about friendship. However, it’s impossible to ignore the feeling that Pixar is just going through the motions with the movie, and while it’s possible to enjoy it for what it is, this feels like a real disappointment given what we’re used to seeing from the studio. Just recently, Onward explored friendship and family in a far more meaningful, emotional way, while Coco and Soul delivered breathtaking visuals in spades. That leaves Luca feeling like a pale imitation of classic Pixar. 

There’s fun to be had with Luca, but heaps of colour aren’t enough to disguise an uninspired animation style and story that make it feel like Pixar is treading water in the wake of much better movies like Coco and Onward. 

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