My last Tuesday blog ended with me saying that I needed to stop watching random animated movies and start watching real films again. Of course, when I said real films what I meant was grown-up films. It’s not that I think animated films aren’t real. So, I guess it could be considered something of a failure that I’m back this week with another animated feature but I think this one’s okay. After all, the latest Pixar release is a far cry from the random stuff that keeps popping up on Netflix these days. I’ve always been a big Pixar fan, so I knew that I had to check this one out as soon as possible.
I guess the problem that we’ve seen a lot from Pixar over the years is that they just can’t always live up their own reputations. It’s not that they have been creating bad films but that they’ve created so many spectacular films. When you’re the studio behind the Toy Story franchise or Up, then you’ll find it difficult to always reach that level every time. It’s not fair to judge every film on the ones that came before. Something that I think plenty of critics have done with Luca. I know the latest offering from Pixar hasn’t been slated but there have been plenty of people suggesting that it’s not as good as the studio normally is. But is it really a letdown?
Luca feels like something new and different for the animation studio. The story doesn’t fall into the familiar lines and it takes a few risks with its set up. We find ourselves on the Italian Riviera sometime around the 1950s and 60s. Our main character isn’t a young Italian boy but is a sea monster. Albeit a sea monster who has the ability to take human form when he’s on dry land. Luca lives under the sea with his overprotective parents but he is curious about the human world. When he meets another young monster, Alberto, the pair make their way onto dry land and plan their escape. Teaming up with a young human girl, the pair decide to compete in a local competition to help them on their way. Will they be able to beat the town tough guy? Or will Luca’s parents catch up with him before they’re able to try?
Basically Luca is The Little Mermaid but without the dodgy “giving up a part of yourself for a man” aspect. Luca’s journey is one of self-acceptance but also one of breaking free. He must overcome his parents’ fear of the human world and follow his own path. The sea monsters are a metaphor for feeling different or feeling like an outsider. It might just be because we’re currently in Pride month but it could easily be read as a metaphor for sexuality. Or race. Or anything you want. The story itself is really sweet and there are plenty of fun gags that can be appreciated by viewers of all ages.
What I think I love most about this film is it’s lack of purpose. What many may see as lack of substance is actually really lovely. There is no major struggle here or a grand villain to fight. Yes, Luca and Alberto are trying to get somewhere and beat somebody. It’s just that there is a lack of heavy consequences. Instead, we just watch these two young boys learn more about the human world. We get to see them chilling out in Italy and it’s wonderful. After all, Pixar have always done well with their visuals and there are some fantastic characters to meet here. You’ll just enjoy relaxing in this nostalgic and dreamlike world. If ever there was a film that you could describe as charming then it’s this one.
Is Luca as memorable as other Pixar movies? No. Does it hit as hard? No. Does that matter? No. There is a lot to enjoy here and it’s a different experience. You can’t really compare this to Up or Toy Story because they’re doing such different things. Why bother? The only real criticism that I can think of is that Luca plays up to a younger audience more than an older audience. However, it is an animated film that was intended for a younger audience. It’s hardly a real criticism. It was an enjoyable film and one that I would rewatch on man a lazy afternoon.