We all expect amazing work from Pixar Animation Studios. It's been known for many years that Pixar is known for making animated films that are stunning on many different levels and produced classics that have earned their place in pop culture and film history. Next to join their impressive legacy of beloved animated classics is "Luca", a film that is smaller in scale compared to other Pixar films. Compared to their last film "Soul" which was a film that visually and emotionally challenged its audiences, this film took a much simpler approach and was made to be simple and sweet and it works wonderfully. This film was such a delight from start to finish and has such a relaxing and pleasant vibe that I was able to lose myself in the world of the film. It was such a treat to watch.
Off the coast of the Italian Riviera Portorosso, a young sea monster named Luca (Jacob Tremblay) becomes infatuated with life above the surface and the people who live there. While his parents Daniela and Lorenzo (Maya Rudolph and Jim Gaffigan) forbid him from going, his curiosity gets the better of him and he soon ends up on land to find he has transformed into a normal human boy on land. He eventually befriends another young sea monster named Alberto (Jack Dylan Grazer) and the two bond at Alberto's hideout on an island where they discover human artifacts as well as a poster for a Vespa. Hoping to win a Vespa, the boys set off for the town and befriend a girl named Giulia (Emma Berman) who is trying to win an annual race in the town and beat the town bully Ercole (Saverio Raimondo). Together, the three set off to try to win the race bonding together through various summer activities.
This was such a special and sweet film from Pixar. Compared to their other films that have heart-wrenching and deep stories and characters, this film takes a much simpler approach that I don't think I've seen from the studio and uses it to their full advantage with the story being easily the biggest draw. While the film does have a rushed opening that feels a bit uneven, it soon unravels into a simple slice of life story with a small twist which works to its advantage. Director Enrico Casarosa takes the time to have the three kids bond together over the summer and has many moments of pure joy and excitement that I'm sure many children and their parents can envelop in. One personal favorite moment of mine happens on the island that Alberto hides out in where he and Luca decide to build a Vespa out of the various junk that Alberto has found and try riding it down the island's hill and off a cliff into the sea. It's a film that also has a lot of atmosphere you might find in the films from Studio Ghibli or Cartoon Saloon. I especially loved the quieter moments too where the film just has the characters talk about the world and their lives which gives them a lot of depth and quirkiness that I found funny. It eventually builds to a fun climax with the race and a heartwarming ending and has great messages that children can learn about the world. I also especially loved the animation of this film. Compared to the ultra-realistic animation Pixar has used in their previous films, they decided to go for a more cartoony vibe with the character designs and sets, and it's all the better for it. The pastel colors are so bright and filled with a lot of life that I was dazzled from start to finish. Even the character designs for the film are unique and bear resemblance to the works of Aardman with their delightful plasticine character designs. It also helps that Casarosa gives the animation many moments of pure fantasy where Luca has fun daydreams which include riding on the Vespa across a wheat field and running with the planets and stars that have paintbrush stroke details throughout. It made for wonderful eye candy and easily was among the biggest visual highlights of the film. I also found the characters wonderful as well especially the bond Luca, Alberto, and Giulia have. All three are a bit different as Luca is a bit timid, Alberto is very rambunctious, and Giulia is tough, but all are driven together with the goal of wanting to win the race which allowed them for having fun moments together especially involving Luca and Alberto first trying pasta. I also found that Luca's development was handled wonderfully. As I stated earlier, he is a bit timid and does feel a bit scared at times but it doesn't feel overblown to the point where he's a constant fraidy cat who is afraid of everything. I also feel that the other characters like Luca's parents and Ercole while having traits we've seen in other films like the pesky bully and overprotective parents don't come off too cliched or overdone and share some funny moments with Luca's parents splashing water on the children trying to find their son and Ercole constantly bossing around these two goons and being kind of a wimp at times. The film really did have a lot of fun laughs that were simply pure joy.
And pure joy is really the best description I can give to "Luca". The story is a simple and sweet slice of life, the animation is gorgeous and filled with a lot of visual wonderment, and the characters all work very well and have some funny moments and great development. This was a wondrous film to watch and I enjoyed it quite a bit. It's a film that once again continues to show Pixar still has it in them to make a great film as well as take a risk with a smaller story and I can't wait to see where they go next. I'm sure they're going to continue to make a splash in animation for years to come.