It’s maybe not in the same vaulted league of such classic Pixar toons as Up, Toy Story, WALL-E or Inside Out, but its latest, Luca, is the best excuse ever to escape the summertime heat and treat yourself to this lilting and entertaining sea monster coming-of-age charmer. Ah, if only were headed to theaters instead of streaming on Disney because this one would play beautifully in a big, air-conditioned theater, almost like you are vacationing in Italy yourself.
Taking place under the ocean and in a picaresque seaside Italian town circa 1950s, Luca is about the title character, Luca Paguro (voiced by Room’s Jacob Tremblay), a boy sea monster living well under the ocean’s surface with his seemingly normal family. But Luca, like any kid, can be curious and wonders what all those fragments coming down into his world from above just might be. His curiosity gets the better of him, and he does what is absolutely forbidden and what he has been warned never to do: swim to the surface, where his kind is feared.
When he lands on shore, his sea monster being transforms from the water into an average-looking human child. There is his new BFF Alberto (Jack Dylan Grazer), himself a sea monster who has warmed to life of a human like a fish out of water. He shows Luca the way into the lovely town, where the human population would be shocked if they ever discovered just who these two really were. The only way to avoid that disaster is to stay clear of any drops of water because water immediately reveals their true identity.
As this coming-of-age tale unfolds and Luca is having the time of his life in his new humanness, his parents Daniela (Maya Rudolph) and Lorenzo (Jim Gaffigan), completely freak out and take a trip to the surface themselves, becoming their human doppelgangers and hitting the trail in hope of finding their son and bringing him back where he belongs.
Albert and Luca eventually join forces with a human girl, Giulia (Emma Berman), a Peppermint Patty type if ever there was one (the Peanuts gang should sue), and the trio become inseparable. Of course she isn’t aware exactly who her new friends really are. Ercole Visconti (Saverio Raimondo), the town bully, makes life difficult for them as they set out also to find the Vespa Scooter of their dreams in order to see the sights as never before.
With direction from Enrico Casarosa, who certainly knows the territory and was Oscar-nominated for the 2011 Pixar animated short La Luna, and a fun script from Mike Jones, this all plays out beautifully, aided by the gorgeous production pesign (right down to the town movie theater’s posters of Roman Holiday). Along for the ride are also three particularly hilarious characters including Luca’s weird Uncle Ugo (Sacha Baron Cohen), who warns of dangers on land and lives in the deepest and darkest part of the sea; Grandma (Sandy Martin), who is happy Luca is experiencing a little adventure; and Machiavelli, a sweet, human-loving cat of Giulia’s who smells something fishy when Alberto and Luca are around — which brings out his killer personality.
Pixar’s 24th animated feature for Disney is a winner all the way — you were expecting anything less? Producer is Andrea Warren. Disney streams it starting Friday. Check out my video review at the link above with scenes from the movie.
Do you plan to see Luca? Let us know what you think.