Luca (Animation, Adventure, Comedy) (2021)
Director: Enrico Casarosa
Writer: Enrico Casarosa, Jesse Andrews, Simon Stephenson, Mike Jones
Stars: Jacob Tremblay, Jack Dylan Glazer, Emma Berman, Marco Barricelli
Born in the sea alongside the Italian Riviera, Luca Paguro (Jacob Tremblay) and his kind are described by humans as sea monsters. Due to his strict parents knowing the hostile attitude humans have about them, Luca has never seen the surface. That changes when he meets Alberto Scorfano, who tempts him to walk the surface realm. Having seen this new world once, Luca gets addicted to it, in a blossoming friendship, he and Alberto journey to the closest human town with aspirations to get their hands on a genuine Vespa scooter.
Similar in art style to Enrico Casarosa's short "La Luna", this is his first big Disney/Pixar production. Having worked on storyboarding for other Pixar properties, he now gets to shine on his own with an original film. "Luca" was the first Pixar animated movie almost exclusively made from crew members' homes due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
With a vibrant and endearing style, "Luca" almost feels like a short film due to the "La Luna" aesthetic alone. It could be described as a coming-of-age version of "The Little Mermaid" but a more modern and creative variation. The stylized Italian Riviera differentiates "Luca" from many other Pixar films and cuts out its own cute little niche. Using humour and several genuinely funny running gags, combining childhood drama with more amusing moments, such as the cat owned by Giulia's dad Massimo (Marco Barricelli) being highly suspicious of the two young sea monsters. It manages to stay exciting and only improve over the running time. Several story elements are effectively juggled, switching at the correct times without making some jokes to overbearing.
The childhood friendship between Luca, Alberto and later introduced character Giulia develops nicely and is easy enough for younger generations to follow. Unlike other Disney/Pixar projects, the plot doesn't get too complicated with a ton of deeper meanings; although there will be fan theories such as saying the main character is supposed to convey being transgender, but such indications aren't a definite truth and are up to interpretation.
While not quite comparing to films like "Raja and the Last Dragon" in its grand story and lacking layered depth as with "Soul". Just the simple things breathe new life in a sometimes over-complicated animation industry.
Charming as a short trip to Italy while we're all stuck at home.