Friday, June 18, 2021

Luca - Review

After years and years of pulling on emotional heartstrings, it’s almost expected that Pixar will have some deep-seeded message buried in each film about life and its meaning. No where was this more true than their last outing, Soul. So to say Luca is a switch-up on that model is an understatement by comparison. Sure, it still has its message, friendship and acceptance of one’s self are littered throughout, but the film as a whole, the studio’s shortest since Toy Story in 1995, comes across as a much lighter and charming watch.

Set in a beautiful seaside town on the Italian Riviera, the original animated feature is a coming-of-age story about one young boy experiencing an unforgettable summer filled with gelato, pasta and endless scooter rides. Luca shares these adventures with his newfound best friend, but all the fun is threatened by a deeply-held secret: he is a sea monster from another world just below the water's surface.

In the Pixar model, a storytelling staple at this point, there always seems to be a dueling ideology. Give the kids the gorgeous animation and fun characters and let the adults that tagged along feel all the emotional beats along the way. However, Luca is different. It still has all the heart and charm of classic Pixar, but its light and breezy philosophy is a nice change of pace. At a brisk 95 minutes, the film manages to give us a story of friendship and accepting one’s own differences while filled to the brim with an infectious joy that can’t be beat.

While story is essential, the key to any Pixar film becoming beloved by the masses is introducing fresh and likable characters to the world you’ve constructed. For a film that doesn’t delve nearly as deep into its existential themes as past Pixar outings, the characters here are the first in a while that you just enjoy watching be themselves. The trio of Luca, Alberto and Giulia are a delight, reveling in their youth and bonding over their underdog status. Any adventures with the three of them seem more than worthy of a revisit should any creatives at the animation giant feel inclined to do so. 

It feels redundant at this point to praise the artistry of the animation in Pixar films, and yet, it’s hard to not mention how beautiful some aspects of Luca are. The Italian seaside setting makes for a perfect backdrop, from each sea-serpent fountain to cobble stone path. The character designs take a shift here, moving to the more exaggerated features end of the spectrum rather than the more standard look of the past, and it only serves to benefit the film’s more light hearted nature. 

Luca is a nice, light switch up for Pixar, especially after the heavy hitter that Soul was. It’s hard to imagine this elevating to the status of past films, but for what it is, you can’t get much better than this. The variety between the last three Pixar films, all original by the way, and the exciting introduction of new directors like Enrico Casarosa, make the future of the animation giant very exciting indeed.

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