Starring: Jacob Tremblay, Jack Dylan Grazer, Maya Rudolph, Giacomo Gianniotti, Jim Gaffigan, Emma Berman, Marco Barricelli, and Saverio Raimondo
Director: Enrico Casarosa
It won't land amongst anyone's Top 10 Pixar movies, but the small charms of Luca are enough to keep it entertaining. The characters are fun to follow on their various adventures despite there not being much story involved and they keep things moving along. The film seems a bit averse to any actual tension though, usually taking the less dramatic approach when it's given opportunities to challenge those characters or its own narrative. Poignant themes of friendship and discovery keep it sufficiently afloat to be worthwhile, but those expecting Pixar’s usual level of animated mastery should look elsewhere.
Initially, I was getting worried that Luca was just going to be a long-form Pixar short. Great visuals and unique characters can only take you so far if the story isn't grabbing your attention in the first act. But once Emma Berman's Giulia entered the picture and gave us a trio to root for, everything Pixar does well began to fall into place. An original concept with strong characters and meaningful conflicts, Luca ends as a heartfelt, feel-good story that's not as great as some of its predecessors but is still a sweet time for the whole family.
Pixar has been on a slight decline lately, but Soul gave me hope that was coming to an end. Luca undid that hope. Luca works as a coming-of-age film, but it's too afraid to lean into the darker themes and allegories it hints at. Characters appear with minimal impact and no real stakes are set, while the villain is dull and irrelevant to the themes and character arcs. The three main characters are well written, but if it wasn't for the humor and charm, I feel this would be among Pixar’s worsts.