Pixar Movies 24 – Luca

It seems that Pixar hasn’t done as well with their advertising in the last couple of years. I knew very little about Soul before I watched it about a year ago, and I didn’t even know this movie existed until I started researching for a month where I’d catch up on Disney and Pixar movies. Their 25th movie, Turning Red, wasn’t exactly well advertised either. As for Lightyear, which is currently bombing, every comment I’ve seen from people who have watched it says that the trailers basically told them nothing about the movie, and could explain more about the movie with one sentence than the trailers did.

Well, Luca exists, and it released in June of 2021 to a box office of $49 million. You can blame at least some of that on the fact that most theaters were still closed at the time. Disney only gave this a theatrical release for one week at Hollywood’s El Captain Theatre, and in international markets where Disney+ isn’t available. Otherwise, it released on Disney+ the day it was originally to be released. Also like Soul, it was free to any existing subscribers to Disney+.

It feels kind of dirty that Disney treated two Pixar movies in a row like this. Pixar used to have such a legendary reputation in the animated film world – they even promoted John Lasseter (before his controversy) to head of Disney’s entire animation department. By releasing two of their movies on Disney+ without the premium they sometimes gave other movies, they’ve essentially devalued Pixar as a studio. Pixar deserves better than that.

Normally, Disney and Pixar tend to announce their movies well ahead of their release. With Luca, they announced the film in July of 2020, less than a year before its release, and also at a time when most people weren’t really thinking about movies. It would be directed by Enrico Casarosa, an Italian storyboard artist, writer and director who’s been working with Pixar for over 10 years. He made his directorial debut on the La Luna short that was paired with Brave. He said that Luca’s story was very much inspired by his own childhood. He considers this a deeply personal story, with the two lead characters based on himself and his childhood best friend, Alberto Surace (who voiced a fisherman in the Italian dub version).

“My summers were spent on beaches … I met my best friend when I was 11. I was really shy and I found this troublemaker of a kid who had a completely different life. I wanted to make a movie about those kinds of friendships that help you grow.”

As far as I’m concerned, that’s a pretty good starting point for a movie. The story revolved around sea monsters who transform into a human-like body when they’re dry, inspired by Italian myths and regional folklore about sea monsters. In addition to being fascinated by these legends for most of his life, he stated that the sea monsters in the movie are also used as a “metaphor for feeling different.”

In preparation for the movie, they sent several of the film’s animators to the Italian Riviera, a narrow coastal strip with several villages along the way that also borders with the French Riviera. Back when my family visited Italy 10 years ago, we spent an afternoon there, walking the path through to several of these towns. Watching this movie felt quite familiar as soon as the characters entered the coastal town, with the old, colourful buildings, the steep hills and the beach on the Mediterranean. The village in the film is a fictional town, but it looks and feels like the actual Italian Riviera.

Early on, they also announced that Casarosa would co-write the movie with Jesse Andrews, a novelist who had previously helped write the film adaptation of his debut novel, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. Mike Jones, one of the writers for Soul, also helped write Luca.

Most of the cast are either Italian or young, which does help with the film’s feeling of authenticity. Luca himself is voiced by Jacob Tremblay, already a rising star from Canada who’s appeared in Good Boys, Doctor Sleep, Room, and he’s going to appear in the remake of The Toxic Avenger. Jack Dylan Grazer plays Alberto Scorfano, Luca’s friend. He’s best known for appearing in the 2017 and 2019 It films, but also appeared in Shazam! Of the movie’s major characters, the most well-known actor is Maya Rudolph as Luca’s overprotective mother, best known for Idiocracy, Saturday Night Live from 2000 to 2007, and The Good Place TV series. There’s also Sandy Martin, who plays Luca’s grandmother. She was also the grandmother in Napoleon Dynamite, and has been appearing in film and on TV in a number of minor roles since 1977.

Because of its limited release, as far as I’m aware, Disney has never revealed the film’s budget. That said, I find it hard to believe it was profitable considering the animation quality is very good, yet it only earned $49 million in theatres. It was the most viewed streaming movie of the year across all services, with roughly 1.2 million watches. The only movie with more watching minutes on stream last year was The Tomorrow War, which is a noticeably longer movie.

The movie ended up doing quite well with the critics, earning 91% on Rotten Tomatoes with an average score of 7.3/10. Although no critic quotes specifically stand out, it seems that most agree that the visuals are spectacular, that it deviates from Pixar’s usual formula without hurting the movie’s quality, and that the general design of the Italian coastal village, the story, and the soundtrack are the highlights of the movie.

In concept, I think this movie is fairly good. The focus on a young “sea monster” boy hitting his rebellious phase, coinciding with his discovery of the human world, and that he can blend in as long as he’s dry, is a creative way of exploring growing up. The friendship that Luca and Roberto develop works well as the movie’s emotional core. The eventual third member of their crew, Giulia, a 13-year-old Italian girl from the town, adds quite a bit to the dynamic, especially the growing pains within their friendships. Roberto helps Luca find his courageous, adventurous side, while Giulia helps them learn what it means to be human, while also helping them keep their secret once she finds out.

It ends up being fairly dangerous for the sea monsters to be in the human world, seeing how this Italian village is all about killing sea monsters. This includes Giulia’s father, a fisherman. That said, by the time their secret is exposed, the movie has properly built up the relationships in order to make their acceptance feel believable. By that time, Giulia’s father has come to like Luca and Roberto, and some of the other villagers are cheering them on as they train for the village’s unique version of a triathlon. Instead of running, the second portion of the triathlon is eating.

Eating a huge bowl of spaghetti as fast as you can, right before biking uphill, doesn’t sound like a lot of fun. It is an amusing twist though.

With all that said, nothing in this movie feels all that special. It’s good, but like Brave, it’s kind of a one and done watch. It is worth seeing if you enjoy Pixar’s more dramatic movies, and the exploration of friendship and growing up works quite well, but I don’t see this being worth rewatching. I’m not sure whether it’s something about the movie’s quality that I’m missing, or if it’s just that I’m a bit too old to be this movie’s target audience. This is definitely worth a watch if you have Disney+, and it’s probably worth recommending to pre-teen kids, but I’m not willing to recommend paying money to see this to adults.

Next week I’ll be re-evaluating two movies I watched for the first time for for my 2017 Disney blogathon; Robin Hood and Meet The Robinsons. After that, I’ll be looking at Turning Red, Pixar’s newest movie that isn’t Lightyear. As of right now, I have no plans to ever watch Lightyear, for two reasons. One, Tim Allen doesn’t voice the title character, even though he was available for it, and he is the reason that character is popular. Two, they accused the movie’s critics of being bigots, and that’s a very good way to turn me off of any movie or show, regardless of the movie’s quality or intentions. Anyway, I’m planning on September being Tom Hanks month, followed by Spider-Man month for October. November will be War Movies Month, and for December, I’ll be looking at hilariously cheesy Christian movies as a different way of celebrating Christmas. I’m open to recommendations for that month – the dumber and the cheesier, the better.

About healed1337

I am a relatively new comic book fan writing this blog for other new comic book fans and/or people who are interested in comics but don't know where to start. I've always been interested in writing, to the point where I have a college Creative Writing Certificate and I'm currently a year 2 Journalism student. I also have another blog where I mostly make fun of bad movies - www.healed1337.blogspot.com As for how I got into comics, I've always had a passing interest in superheroes: most notably Batman, Spider-man and the X-Men. Until February of 2011 (I think,) my only experience with any of these franchises came from the movies and video games. Shortly after I bought Marvel Vs. Capcom 3 however, I decided to check out X-23, Wolverine's female clone. I ended up reading her Innocence Lost origin story and enjoyed it. From there, I started reading various X-Men comics and it quickly exploded into my newest hobby. My other interests/hobbies include video games, movies, music, playing sports, my dogs and weird news.
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7 Responses to Pixar Movies 24 – Luca

  1. Paul Bowler says:

    Had never heard of this PIXAR film, guess as this had such a limited release that’s probably why. It sounds like a good concept and the animation style looks really nice though.


    • healed1337 says:

      Considering how well Pixar has done for Disney in the past (like how Toy Story 3 was the first animated movie to ever earn over $1 billion), it doesn’t sit well with me that I didn’t even know this movie existed until I looked it up. Especially since I do enjoy animated movies. It clearly wasn’t advertised very well.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. evaschon98 says:

    I’ve never been interested in this movie, but after reading this review I do actually want to see it.

    As for cheesy Christian movies…there are soooo many. XD Left Behind is good for that. (The old one with Kirk Cameron. Although the new one with Nicolas Cage is hilariously awful as well.)


    • healed1337 says:

      They really didn’t do a good job at advertising this one.

      It’s too early to completely decide on which movies I’ll be looking at for Cheesy Christian month, but one movie I’m considering is a movie from the 90s called Second Glance, that ends with this clip.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: currently… (august 2022 edition) – THE CAFFEINATED FANGIRL

  4. Pingback: Pixar Movies 25 – Turning Red | healed1337

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