Another year, another summer Pixar film for the entire family. This is the 24th film to come out of the 16-time Oscar winning animation studio, and oddly enough the 13th to come out in the month of June. Luca is directed by first-time movie director Enrico Casarosa. That name likely won’t sound familiar, unless you are a fan of Casarosa’s beloved short-film La Luna.
Embracing A New Style
This film is an homage to the Italian Riviera. It is a heartfelt coming of age story like we’ve come to expect from Pixar, but with the light and playful tone we’re used to seeing from studios such as Dreamworks or Blue Sky. In the last couple decades, animation has come incredibly far and has started to look more and more life-like each year. However, if that trend were to continue, there is only so far you can go before you might as well just use actors and actresses because you won’t be able to tell the difference. In 2018, Sony Pictures Animation released Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse to critical acclaim. This film proved that more cartoony and less-realistic is still very much in-style. They followed that up this year in a very similar way with The Mitchells Vs. The Machines. Luca plays very much along those lines with a style it is much more cartoony than realistic. The animation style is reminiscent of classic Aardman stop-motion character models while the backgrounds give nods to colorful Miyazaki films like Ponyo and Porco Rosso.
I personally find this playful style of animated film quite refreshing. This is what animation used to be, and what it still should be today from time to time. Not every animated film needs to try to be some extremely realistic film with epic fantasy worlds and huge character arcs. Sometimes we just need a fun and playful summer movie that will entertain the kids while also packing some heart and humor for the adults. This is not a Best-Animated Feature contender in my eyes, and that’s ok. It seems like every animated film coming out from Disney the last few years has been trying really hard to win the award, and it’s just kind of refreshing to see one that doesn’t seem to care. Sure, in a lot of ways it seems to rip-off ideas from The Little Mermaid. Not only do both films center around characters that escape the land against the wishes of their strict parents, but both films also have title characters that don’t really have character arcs. The characters that have character arcs are the ones around Luca and Ariel. In the end, Luca and Ariel both don’t really change that much and end up getting to stay on land. In Luca, it is Alberto, Luca’s parents, and the people of Porto Rosso that undergo character change.
Luca is playful, fun, and still packs the heart we expect from Pixar films (though maybe not quite to the same degree as some of the elite titles). It is a perfect summer film for the whole family and I am genuinely upset that it didn’t garner a theater release. It is a simple film in style, plot structure, and character arcs. In my eyes, this lends it towards being on of those fun, re-watchable films that is never going to be considered as one of the greats (think Lilo & Stitch, Emperor’s New Groove, etc).