By Harvey Joyce
Pixar is back for the perfect summer film for everyone – young, old or even mysterious sea monsters!
Set in a picturesque coastal town on the Italian Riviera, Disney and Pixar’s new original film Luca is a coming-of-age story about one young boy experiencing an extraordinary summer filled with sunshine, pasta and Vespas. But all this fun is held back by a life-changing secret: he is actually a sea monster that dwells in the ocean below.
Luca (voiced by Jacob Tremblay) is an introverted, kind-hearted kid that dreams of a new life on land, however, he is limited by the fears of his parents Daniela and Lorenzo (voiced by Maya Rudolph and Jim Gaffigan). To them, their family should fear the human race due to their cruelty towards fish-kind.
This status quo all changes when Luca meets Alberto (voiced by Jack Dylan Grazer). He is a free-spirited, expressive teen who is all about living in the moment. Despite his outgoing nature, he secretly hates living alone.
Over time, Alberto coaxes Luca to the surface, where their bodies take on a human form and their secret is only spoiled if they get wet again. The boys seek out all the thrills that they are denied in the sea below. Upon exposing their son’s actions, Luca’s parents plan to send him to live in the deep sea with his creepy uncle Ugo (voiced by the hilarious Sacha Baron Cohen). In retaliation, Luca and Alberto run away to the nearby town of Portorosso to find an ‘all-powerful’ Vespa to explore the world.
Upon entering Portorosso, the boys start to realise it’s going to be a lot harder to fit in a town that is founded on hunting and killing fish like Luca and Alberto. This problem is exemplified by the local bully, Ercole Visconti (voiced by Saverio Raimondo), who is also the repeat champion of the Portorosso Cup triathlon with his own nifty Vespa. When Ercole almost unknowingly exposes Luca’s fishy secret, the boys are luckily saved by their new friend Gulia (voiced by Emma Berman) who is another social outcast like them. Together, they plan to team up to try and win the Portorosso Cup triathlon and with their prize money, they’ll buy a Vespa to finally explore the world.
Fellow Disney fans may call out similar themes between Luca and other aquatic films like The Little Mermaid and Pixar’s own Finding Nemo. Despite the film’s arguably unambitious story, Luca lets its characters shine without being caught up in a complicated, bloated narrative. This makes the film’s pace a lot quicker, making it easy to rewatch whilst also not distracting the audience from its main message.
I believe the main reason why Luca has hooked (fish pun intended) so many people is because of the relatability of the story. The idea of hiding below the surface and the fear of being judged can be similar to one’s own experiences, whether that be with mental health, sexuality or personal insecurities. The simplicity of Luca’s message means anyone can enjoy it: be yourself and “silenzio Bruno”!
So far, this film has been quite popular online for a few reasons. Firstly, I think many people have made the link between this film and Call Me by Your Name. Both films are set in Italy and have two young male protagonists enjoying the summer and deepening their bond; some have even humorously dubbed this relationship ‘Calamari by Your Name’. Despite Luca’s homoerotic undertones, the director (Enrico Casarosa) has made his intentions clear that Luca is a film about friendship, yet I believe it can be open to interpretation. Secondly, I think people really enjoy the aesthetic of the Italian Riviera in both Luca and Call Me by Your Name. Perhaps this is due to a general longing to be in a coastal town abroad as travel restrictions gradually begin to ease?
Overall, Luca is a breezy, gentle tale that may not live up to other ambitious Pixar films. However, what it lacks in inventiveness and depth, it makes up for with very likeable characters, buckets of charm and many bowls of pasta!
Illustration: Verity Laycock