Movie Review: Luca

Luca is about a young sea monster who dreams of a life that's not so ordinary. He has a healthy fascination with the world above the water and one day he runs into another young sea monster who shows him the joy and excitement of surface life. The two embark on an adventure to try and win enough money for a vespa so they can ride away and explore the surface world. Of course, if they get one drop of water on them, though, their secret is revealed and they may be hunted by the people in the town. The film stars Jacob Tremblay, Jack Dylan Grazer, Emma Berman, Saverio Raimondo, Marco Barricelli, Peter Sohn, Lorenzo CrisciSacha Baron Cohen, Sandy Martin, Jim Gaffigan, and Maya Rudolph. The film is directed by Enrico Casarosa. The story is by Casarosa, Jesse Andrews, and Simon Stephenson and is written by Andrews and Mike Jones. The film is streaming exclusively, without extra cost, on Disney+.


In a film like this, it's very easy to see these boys as you want to see them. They have an outsider's perspective and a fear of being exposed after passing for so long as "normal." Yet, what I hope others take from it is not the discussions of the boys sexuality because the film is very much not about that, but about the positive example of male friendship.


I love a platonic relationship and Luca has a terrific pair in Luca and Alberto. They don't have a relationship of dominance over one another, which is how a lot of young male friendship is portrayed on film. There's no bullying, but a sense of mentorship that Alberto has over Luca. There's also the complicated jealousy of one friend outgrowing the other or bringing a new friend into the group, but a rally when one friend very much needs the other. This dynamic is not fresh, but it's handled in a way that doesn't pit one friend against the other. It develops their understanding of one another, their hopes and their fears.


Luca has a tremendous amount of hope and joy in it. There are these impeccably rendered daydreams of Luca's that show off the prowess of the digital artists. The worlds within the film are magical. I loved watching Luca and Alberto play amongst the star fish and the way Luca ran on the rings of Saturn like it was a sandy beach. We've become so used to computer images and animation that it's hard to see anything new, but I like that these artists can keep adding to the mundane movements of their worlds as well. The way that Luca and Alberto's "hair" moved in and out of the water, the texture of the grass, and, yes, the dust kicked up as Luca runs on that sandy ring is all about the making of a fantasy world seem more real.


I also love that, miracle of miracles, BOTH OF LUCA'S PARENTS ARE ALIVE! Yes, Pixar/Disney has finally graced us with a protagonist who comes from a home where both parents pitch in, have discussions, and love their son. And what a delight these parents are. I nearly cried laughing as they try and figure out which of the village children is Luca by knocking them into the water. I never thought I'd want to see a woman body slam a child into a fountain, but I did and it was an utter delight.


Even Giulia's parents, though divorced/separated (it's unclear) are both alive. Not only that, but Giulia's father Massimo has only one arm. Based on what we learn about him, Massimo is a fisherman and a hunter of sea monsters, but the absent limb didn't come from that. As he plainly explains, he was born without it and as we see he's learned to work efficiently without it. It's very heartening to see progress, even small progress, toward disrupting our ableist ideas with characters who live with physical disabilities. It's also incredible to see that Massimo doesn't let the absent limb define him and isn't to be pitied because of it.


Luca is a brightly colored, very funny delight. It's a film that feels very familiar, but if you allow yourself to get lost in the majesty of the scenery and the terrific animated style, you will thoroughly enjoy it. I wish there was a way to see it on the big screen, but if you turn the lights off and close the curtains at home, it will fill your space with the most wonderful display. See this one.

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