Luca Review: Jacob Tremblay & Jack Dylan Grazer's movie is a 'jump off a cliff' level of wanderlust adventure

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Luca is a coming-of-age movie about a 13-year-old sea monster.
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Luca

Luca Voice Cast: Jacob Tremblay, Jack Dylan Grazer, Emma Berman

Luca Director: Enrico Casarosa

Luca Streaming Platform: Disney+Hotstar Premium

Luca Rating: 3.5/5

You know that absolute revitalised feeling of gulping down an ice-cold lemonade in the midst of a hot summer day? Well, that's Luca for you, metaphorically speaking. Pixar's (under Disney) latest coming-of-age outing, interspersed with the jovial, magical visuals of Italian Riviera, is just the cinematic 'travel' adventure we needed to rid us of the quarantine blues, in spite of its straightforward, simplistic storytelling.

Heavily inspired by Italian folklore, Luca narrates the story of Luca Paguro, a deeply inquisitive teenage sea monster, who is cocooned by his protective mother Daniela Paguro (Maya Rudolph) to not venture above the sea surface. Given Luca's age, there's the obvious curiousity about the unexplored territory above the waters because when you're told not to do something, your immediate response is to do just that. It's after encountering another vagabond teenage sea monster named Alberto Scorfano (Jack Dylan Grazer), that Luca's temptation is explored and the two strangers discover the treasures lurking on land. What keeps their identities hidden is the fact that they turn human, whenever dry. Rains, in particular, are their kryptonite.

After being caught by his mother and banished to the deep sea with his Uncle Ugo (a hilarious cameo by Sacha Baron Cohen), Luca is pushed to the limit as he and Alberto escape to the unknown destination, the Italian Riviera fishing village Portorosso with one goal in mind; own a Vespa, signifying their freedom, and travel the world together. While Portorosso is brimming with excitement and vigour boasting lively characters, there's heavy discrimination against sea monsters, who are considered evil by them, and hence, there's the constant fear of getting caught.

In order for them to own a Vespa, they quickly learn that they need money to purchase their dream and hence, that's when Giulia Marcovaldo (Emma Berman), a spunky Italian teenager, is added to the narrative. While Luca heavily relies on the profound characteristics of a deep friendship, the underlying plot is about winning Portorosso Cup, an annual triathlon event that comprises swimming, eating pasta and a bicycle race, to claim the prize money. Their obstacle lies in the antagonist Ercole Visconti (Saverio Raimondo), the village bully flanked by his loyal henchmen Ciccio and Guido, who basks in the glory of always winning the Portorosso Cup and claims the citizens to be his fans for his triumphs all the while considering his red Vespa as his beloved treasure.

As I wrote above, Luca is a deeply-rooted take on friendship which is aptly captured in the innocence of Luca and Alberto's instant camaraderie. Their zest for life above the waters is something kids yearn for and can learn from when you cater into the factor of otherness. Jacob and Jack do a terrific job in giving imminent voice to these 'different' characters, who in spite of their amphibian nature, feel relatable. It's the more mundane scenes between the two that are the most delightful; like Alberto teaching Luca how to walk or the two mistaking stars for tiny fishes. There's just that youthful dream-like quality that up the likeability of the two leads, stemmed from their friendship.

Even Emma as the effervescent Giulia, along with Massimo Marcovaldo as her father Marco Barricelli, infuse more into the hearty storyline with their determined yet humble personalities. Giulia is just the right levels of spunk needed to infuse even more life into Luca and Alberto, if that was possible. Maya, along with Jim Gaffigan and Sandy Martin as Luca's distracted father Lorenzo Paguro and adventurous grandmother Grandma Paguro, bring their veteran comedic chops to add filters between the lead characters. Saverio is just the right amount of nasty that you'd love to hate and applaud to see lose.

While the characters all play their parts in making you root for them, with the aesthetically pleasing Italian visuals, the emotional attachment that you usually have to classic Pixar movies is not as firmly placed in Luca and that's because of its simplistic storytelling. Hence, the ending, which should have instilled tremendous catharsis falls just a bit short. Although, it's enjoyable nonetheless and maybe that's exactly the reprieve we need in a COVID-19 world.

There's also the major debate about Luca possibly implying a queer love story, revolutionary if true, with Luca and Alberto being the ultimate representation of coming out. There's the obvious traces of Luca Guadagnino's Call Me by Your Name, what with the characters, setting and plot. While Luca director Enrico Casarosa (Oscar-nominated La Luna fame) has staunchly diminished these claims, you can't help but concoct the smallest of details pertaining to possible queerness in storytelling. Once it's implanted in your head, you can't not picture the inclination of the 'more than friends' theme in Luca and Alberto. You see that especially in Alberto's abandonment fear when Luca gets close to Giulia, who dismisses Alberto's vague knowledge of the universe like his stars as fishes analogy, which leads to a big, misunderstood argument between the best friends.

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What Luca excels in with finesse is the stunning visuals, time travelling back to the 50s and 60s Italy, along with a glorious detour to the breathtaking seashore as you figuratively oscillate between the two. It's the traditional aspect of an animated movie rather than relying on photorealism that gives it a childish, vulnerable quality and peaks one's happiness further. Due props need to be given to Daniela Strijleva's ambitious, to the minutest of details production design and Dan Romer's nostalgic score.

Unlike past Pixar classics like Toy Story, Up, Inside Out and Soul, Enrico and writers Jesse Andrews and Mike Jones' Luca was made more to entertain than educate (though there are a few humane life lessons to be learnt by children and parents alike!) and in the times of a pandemic restraining us from treading on uncharted waters and embarking/travelling on wild adventures of our own, away from our comfort zone, Luca is just that 'jump off a cliff' level of wanderlust we sorely dream of. Pixar has done it again!

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