Near the Italian Riviera lives Luca (Jacob Tremblay), a 13 year old sea monster who is restless and curious about the world of humans above the surface. One day, after collecting some man made artefacts that have fallen to the ocean floor, he meets another sea monster named Alfredo (Jack Dylan Grazer), who frequently visits the human world and tempts Luca to do the same. The new pals then spend a summer of friendship and fun together, especially when they decide to venture to the local town of Portorosso.
‘Luca’ moves at a breath-taking pace as our lead character’s dull existence as a sort-of shepherd boy tending to his family’s fish farm is established, as is his attraction to life outside of the ocean. Speedier than you can sing “Part of Your World”, Luca has met Alfredo and both are now human and off on a series of adventures as Luca learns the joys of having feet, while his new friend is established as a very cool, but somewhat naïve, kid. Their elation and celebration of the joys and wonders of childhood will have you feeling like an excitable youngster too.
Italian language, culture and tropes are integrated into ‘Luca’ without ever feeling hammy, for example, in some of the phrases used, the characters they meet, and their adoration of the Vespa. The boys are introduced to cuisine like pasta and espresso. The design of the town of Portorosso with its central fountain and narrow twisty streets is utterly charming – you’ll want to book a trip abroad post haste. It makes for an interesting comparison to the initial underwater world we are submerged in, which recalls previous Pixar flick ‘Finding Nemo’.
In the town, Luca and Alfredo make friends with Giulia (Emma Berman) but eventually a bitter rivalry forms there. See that’s what Pixar always gets so right every time – capturing through animation the nuance of its characters’ deep emotions, from Buzz learning he’s a toy, to Lotso’s realisation that he has been abandoned, to Mama Coco remembering. Here too there are moments of betrayal, loss, and sacrifice which will have you as moved as these and other stirring sequences from the studio.
Overall ‘Luca’ is hugely enjoyable, beautifully animated, and very sweet, with an enduring message – if not oftentimes seen – about the power of friendship, and of family. It’s also so fabulously summery that you shouldn’t be surprised if you return to it over and over for that sunny feeling.