Freedom, adventure, friendship, and a sleek Vespa are the major ingredients of Disney and Pixar’s animated adventure, Luca. The film focuses on Luca (voiced by Jacob Tremblay, Doctor Sleep) a young sea monster who dreams of leaving his home and his boring life under the sea to explore the world above the surface. His over-protective parents (voiced by Maya Rudolph and Jim Gaffigan) fear the surface and all humans, believing it unsafe. They think Luca’s best off just herding his flock of fish like a shepherd.
It’s not long before Luca meets Alberto (voiced by Jack Dylan Grazer, We Are Who We Are), a young, rebellious, independent, and adventurous sea monster who quickly convinces Luca to join him above the surface on his crazy adventures. His first time out of the water and on the land finds Luca going through an extreme physical transformation into a human boy. Soon, with Alberto’s “expert” guidance, Luca learns how to walk on human legs and is ready to explore the little Italian village of Portorosso.
The two young friends quickly bond and Alberto inspires Luca to have the confidence to try things he never thought he would be able to handle, including eating ice cream, talking to humans, and most of all building and riding/crashing their homemade version of a Vespa.
While exploring the town, Luca and Alberto meet Giulia (voiced by Emma Berman), a strong-willed, red-headed tomboy who’s determined to win the Portorosso Cup. The ultra-competitive triathlon is made up of swimming, cycling, and, of course, eating huge amounts of pasta. Eager to buy their own brand new Vespa and travel the world, Luca and Alberto team up with Giulia to go up against the five-time winner of the triathlon and the town’s most obnoxious bully, Ercole Visconti (voiced by Saverio Raimondo), to win the Cup and collect the prize money.
Bright, colorful, and obviously well-intentioned, Luca is a coming-of-age story that borrows greatly from classic animated films including The Little Mermaid, Finding Nemo, and Pinocchio. It’s a light, forgettable adventure with characters who are far too reminiscent of other classic heroes. Alberto’s cocky independence, refusal to listen to any rules, and adventuresome spirit is strikingly similar to Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn.
The voice cast does a solid job bringing each character to life. Emma Berman shines as the voice of Giulia, the hyper-energetic tomboy who befriends Luca and Alberto and is eager to have some real friends of her own. Jacob Tremblay is terrific as Luca, the dreamer and “good little sea monster” who wants to be obedient to his parents but eventually gives in to his yearning to explore what lies above the surface. Tremblay gives him the right amount of innocence and wonder while discovering the world.
It’s in the pacing and the action where the film really struggles. The first 28 minutes are likely to leave young children bored due to too little action and too few funny scenes. It’s not until Luca and Alberto get to the village that the story really takes off. The film’s script and presentation are unlikely to entice teenagers and young adults into wanting to watch. Unlike so many Pixar and Disney animated films, Luca will most likely only entertain a very narrow range of children – between the ages of four to 11 – provided they’re still paying attention after the first 28 minutes.
Overall, Luca‘s basically a carefree, harmless, and unremarkable adventure that might mildly entertain youngsters.
MPAA Rating: PG (Some Thematic Elements|Brief Violence|Rude Humor|Language)
Running Time: 1 hour 40 minutes
Release Date: June 18, 2021 on Disney+
Directed By: Enrico Casarosa