Review: His Name is 'Luca,' and He's a Charmer

by Kevin Taft

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday August 3, 2021


Heading straight to Disney+ for no additional fee, Pixar's latest, "Luca," is definitely one of their lesser efforts, but it's not without its pleasures.

Pixar is known for making family-friendly films that appeal to all ages, and always includes humor that bridges both young and old alike. Their latest — the story of two sea-creature friends trying to make it as humans in a small Italian seaside town — definitely feels aimed more toward the younger crowd. The humor is there, but it's not as sharp as, say, "Inside Out," and it certainly follows the "be yourself" theme that Disney has adopted over the past decade.

Directed Enrico Casarosa, who directed the acclaimed short "Luna," "Luca" follows teenage "sea-monster" Luca (voiced by Jacob Tremblay), who has dreams (a la Ariel) of going to the surface to see what lies beyond his watery home. Having been told by his overprotective, but loving, parents (voiced by Maya Rudolph and Jim Gaffigan) that the world on land is full of monsters and bad things, Luca has been taught to be afraid of it. But he still longs for it. And when he meets fellow sea-creature Alberto (voiced by Jack Dylan Grazer), he gets his chance.

Alberto lives above the surface in a stone tower, waiting for his father to return from an extended adventure. You see, when either of the boys is out of the water, they instantly appear human, so Alberto has learned the ways of land. Granted, most of his declarations aren't quite accurate, but he is more than happy to teach his new friend. Not only that, he espouses the joys of the Vespa, something that quickly becomes a symbol of freedom for the two boys — especially when Luca's parents discover he has gone to the surface, and plan to send him away for the season with his uncle.

Not wanting to go away, Luca escapes with Alberto to a small coastal town, where they go about trying to fit in with the locals. They meet independent gal Guilia (voiced by Emma Berman) and the cocky Giacomo (Giacomo Gianniotti), who is an accomplished marathon winner. Luca, Alberto, and Guilia become fast friends, but the boys keep their sea-creature truth from her, and when Luca and Guilia appear to become close pals, Alberto's jealousy rises to the surface.

Soon enough, the three have signed up for a local marathon that includes swimming, eating pasta, and cycling up the rocky streets of the town. Guilia wants to beat Giacomo to knock his arrogance down, and the boys want the prize money so they can buy a Vespa and travel the world together.

Before you think it, let's just say that, whether intended or not, this is the gayest movie Disney has ever released. The entire plot is coded as a young man's coming out of the closet (the sea) and realizing he can create his own family away from his biological family. The entire coastal town is afraid of sea-monsters (LGBTQ+ folkx), which keeps the boy's true selves under wraps. There are no romantic longings between Guilia and either of the boys, and the jealousy Alberto feels seems like it's more than someone being upset about a friend palling around with someone else.

The film's theme is about accepting oneself and not being afraid to be who you really are. You can't get any more obvious, and the fact that the film has been released during Pride month feels more than a propos.

It's just too bad that Disney didn't make a bigger push for the film, rather than just dumping it on their streaming service for free. It would have been nice if they had embraced it for what it clearly is, rather than, er, keeping it in the closet.

It's certainly not the cleverest of Pixar's films, and only in the last act does it really pull some emotional punches, not to mention display some gorgeous images.

But it's a good message, has delightful voice actors, and makes you feel warm inside when the last frame fades out. His name is "Luca," and he's a charmer.

"Luca" is now available on 4KHD, BLU, DVD, & Digital.

Kevin Taft is a screenwriter/critic living in Los Angeles with an unnatural attachment to 'Star Wars' and the desire to be adopted by Steven Spielberg.