Luca Movie Review
When Walt Disney announced that Luca would debut exclusively on Disney+, without a surcharge, it was widely reported that some Pixar employees were “demoralized” by the decision, especially since Soul also went straight-to-streaming without the premium fees the company has charged for other major pandemic releases. Now that I’ve seen Luca, I understand Disney’s decision: unlike Soul, Luca is neither innovative nor impressive in any way or form.
In fact, it’s one of Pixar’s weakest movies to date.
Luca is about a pair of sea monster boys who, when dry, turn into normal-looking humans. They use this gift to infiltrate and enjoy the pleasures of a small Italian town, dreaming of greater adventures. Naturally, their secret will eventually get out, threatening their lives and well-being.
While I didn’t think about it at the time, after a colleague pointed it out the movie is clearly an allegory for coming out of the closet, though it’s just as easy to watch the film without any such parallels.
Neither interpretation rescues Luca from being a remarkably unremarkable production; while surely some of its power is lost on the small screen, amplified by the distraction of cell phones, computers, and cats that enjoy walking in front of the television screen at inopportune times like little assholes, it’s rather stunning that Luca was meant to be Pixar’s major summer release.
Contrasted to Soul, which was inventive and ambitious (arguably to a fault), Luca just feels plain. The visual effects are good but hardly breathtaking. The story, which basically has the two boys hanging out and doing unassuming things that young Italian boys do, barely holds your attention. The characters are likable, but none are particularly memorable or, frankly, toy-worthy. It’s just so slight, so small, it’s barely worth a shrug.
That doesn’t make Luca bad, but it falls so short of expectations for a Pixar film there isn’t much more to say. It has its moments, to be sure, and is pleasing enough. The bond between the two leads (voiced by Jacob Tremblay and Jack Dylan Grazer) feels real and grounded, sea monster elements aside. But it’s a straight-to-streaming title for a reason, no matter how hard that is for Pixar employees to accept.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.