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Pixar’s ‘Luca’ Film Review: An Aquatic Creature

Pixar’s ‘Luca’ Film Review: An Aquatic Creature

In this coming-of-age tale about friendship and acceptance, an Aquatic Creature spends a magical summer on land in an Italian Riviera village.

There are many films that can be classified as “fish out of water” stories, but few are as literal as “Luca.” Jacob Tremblay plays the main character, an underwater creature who lives with his family off the Mediterranean coast of Italy. Luca has a natural interest that is heightened by his mother’s warnings about the danger that await on dry ground.

The picture, which will premiere exclusively on Disney+ on June 18, foregoes the more intellectual speculations of last year’s Soul in favor of a boys’ adventure story closer to that film’s immediate predecessor, Onward. However, that fantastical journey, which had shades of Dungeons & Dragons role-playing games, became bogged down in furious over-plotting, whereas Luca’s relative storybook simplicity, albeit with magical aspects, should appeal to young viewers.

Set in a beautiful seaside town on the Italian Riviera, Disney and Pixar’s original feature film “Luca” is a coming-of-age story about one young boy experiencing an unforgettable summer filled with gelato, pasta and endless scooter rides. Luca shares these adventures with his newfound best friend, but all the fun is threatened by a deeply-held secret: they are sea monsters from another world just below the water’s surface. Directed by Academy Award® nominee Enrico Casarosa (“La Luna”) and produced by Andrea Warren (“Lava,” “Cars 3”), “Luca” releases June 18 on Disney+.

Luca (voiced by Jacob Tremblay) is an ordinary youngster with gills, a seahorse tail, and a wavy coral head. He lives in the waters outside the fictional Italian Riviera fishing resort Portorosso with his family, which includes his kind but bossy mother Daniela (Maya Rudolph), more laid-back father Lorenzo (Jim Gaffigan), and cool badass Grandma (Sandy Martin). The opening scene shows Luca busy with his daily responsibilities, herding a school of fish that bleat like sheep, and welcoming other colorful members of the aquatic community, in what appears to be a wonderful nod from Casarosa to Finding Nemo. Luca’s mother warns him when he goes too far.

“Luca” features a few delicate melancholy elements, but it isn’t the kind of Pixar film that will turn adults into sobbing, trembling wrecks. Giulia (Emma Berman), a fellow misfit (albeit not a sea monster) who brings the boys home to her fisherman father (Marco Barricelli) and invites them to be her teammates in the town’s annual triathlon, adds to and confuses Luca and Alberto’s friendship. (The event consists of three legs: swimming, cycling, and eating pasta.)

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