Luca (2021)
Luca (2021)

Genre: Fairy Tale Running Time: 1 hr. 35 min.

Release Date: June 18th, 2021 MPAA Rating: PG

Director: Enrico Casarosa Actors: Jacob Tremblay, Jack Dylan Grazer, Maya Rudolph, Jim Gaffigan, Emma Berman, Giacomo Gianniotti, Sandy Martin, Marco Barricelli

 


 

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wo sailors head out to a great fishing spot, though one is afraid of the legends of vicious sea monsters. Sure enough, within a matter of seconds, a slimy, scaly, finned creature purloins a few items from the deck, frightening the men – just as much as the merman-like being, named Luca Paguro (Jacob Tremblay). As it turns out, Luca is a young mer-boy in a civilization of similar entities, going about business as usual as fish-herders, crab-breeders, and farmers. And they’re just as fearful of the land monsters and their boats as the humans are of them. “The curious fish gets caught.”

“He’s old enough to hear about it.” Collecting various dropped, foreign trinkets, Luca is perpetually curious about life above the waves, despite constant warnings from his mother (Maya Rudolph) and father (Jim Gaffigan). So when he meets a mer-boy from a neighboring area, Alberto (Jack Dylan Grazer), who reveals that their species has the ability to turn into human forms on dry land, Luca is awestruck. Fortunately, it doesn’t take long before he’s walking, breathing, experiencing gravity, staring at the sun, exploring human buildings, donning clothing, eating new foods, and even constructing a Vespa from scratch. “Everything good is above the surface.”

Though set in a seaside town on the Italian Riviera, infused with the music, language, stylings, and milieu of the area (a distrustful mustachioed cat named Machiavelli is one of the best inhabitants), the premise is immediately reminiscent of “The Little Mermaid.” The tone is lighter and the characters younger, however, targeting a very different audience, as if merging a bit with “Finding Nemo,” with a grand odyssey (and pursuit) awaiting. The notion of freedom from restrictive parents and rebellion against such parental control efforts (contrasted with the opposing status of orphanhood), as well as longstanding customs in need of an update are also comparable, even if the endeavors are milder and a love story minimal. “Your life is so much cooler than mine!”

“Something’s fishy with you two.” While exploring the themes of bullying (“Can you handle passive-aggressive verbal assault?”), ostracism, teamwork, acceptance, friendship (including offshoots of childish jealousy, rivalry, and know-it-all attitudes), exploration (and education), betrayal, and misguided prejudices – curiously along the lines of “Breaking Away,” considering the crux of a triathlon-like race, beginning on a bicycle – plenty of humor and heart arises. The introduction feels very rushed, chiefly with the setup of mer-people and their alien world, but it’s not long before laughs and emotions move to the forefront. Unfortunately, despite a handful of decent sequences, even the more moving moments aren’t terribly original.

In an unexpected way, the use of sea monsters attempting to blend in with humans is hardly necessary – to the point that it largely gets in the way of the storytelling. The messages imparted could have been told without that fantastical element, despite the vivid atmosphere and creative daydream sequences contributing to a fairy tale premise. Nevertheless, the pacing is swift and the design of the action engaging (even though the resolution feels as equally hasty as the opening, and therefore largely unconvincing), lending to a simple (perhaps overly so, especially for a Pixar piece) yet pleasant little fable.

– Mike Massie

  • 6/10