Set in a beautiful seaside town on the Italian Riviera, Disney and Pixar’s “Luca” is a coming-of-age story about a boy and his newfound best friend experiencing an unforgettable summer filled with gelato, pasta and endless scooter rides. But their fun is threatened by a secret: they are sea monsters from another world. “Luca” is directed by Enrico Casarosa (“La Luna”) and produced by Andrea Warren (“Lava,” “Cars 3”). © 2021 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

By Mark Saldana

Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)

Now available for streaming via Disney+ is a remarkable animated film from Disney/Pixar which celebrates the Italian culture experienced by director Enrico Casarosa, based on his childhood as an Italian native. Even though Luca never achieves the heights of fantasy and brilliance that other Disney/Pixar films have attained, this movie offers a rich and vibrant portrait of a culture and community in Europe, while also reminding its audiences that it is okay to be different from the norm. Given the more intimate and smaller scope of the movie, I can see why Disney has decided to release the movie via its streaming service, but I wouldn’t let this be a deterrent from experiencing this highly lovable feature, as it has some genuine magic of its own.

Jacob Tremblay lends his voice and talents as the titular protagonist Luca, an underwater sea creature who spends his days as fish herder within the coast of the Italian Riviera. Because he has a mostly uneventful life, Luca longs for more, craving exciting adventure and experiences he cannot have, as his family and other creatures in the sea fear what lies beyond the surface. Well, Luca gets to witness what the land has to offer when he encounters a fellow sea creature named Alberto Scorfano (Jack Dylan Grazer) who often ventures on to land, into the coastal city of Portorosso. Luca discovers that he can transform into a human on dry land and has a good amount of fun playing and exploring the terrain with his new friend.

After neglecting his duties as a shepherd on multiple occasions, Luca’s parents (Maya Rudolph, Jim Gaffigan) begin to take notice and decide to send him away to live with his uncle Ugo (Sacha Baron Cohen) to protect him from the dangers of humans in the city. When Luca finds out his parents’ plans for him, he flees to the surface with Alberto to avoid a much more boring life than that of his current situation. While on the coast of Portorosso, he gets to experience the town’s rich culture and hopes to win the Portorosso Cup Race. This a major local event he enters with Alberto and new friend Giuliana (Emma Berman), so that he can purchase a Vespa to escape his mundane life hidden under the sea.

Written by Jesse Andrews and Mike Jones, Enrico Casarosa’s Luca proves to be a highly lovable and joyful movie that should please both children and adults. The movie does lack the scope and complexity of other Disney/Pixar entries, but is still a prodigious movie nevertheless. With its gorgeous animation, the right amount of imagination, and some messages that resonate strong enough with our reality, Luca is an absolute joy to experience. For American children, this movie should prove to be educational in that it offers a beautiful glimpse at another melifluent culture than which they are accustomed.

The movie can boast a wonderful voice cast that brings these great characters to life. In addition to the lead protagonists, Maya Rudolph and Jim Gaffigan deliver some amusing voice work as Luca’s parents Daniela and Lorenzo. As the movie’s antagonist Saverio, Ercole Visconti infuses his character with the appropriate arrogance and hatefulness needed. Saverio is the reigning champion of the Portofino race, and refuses to relinquish his title by any dirty means necessary. As Giuliana’s curmudgeon father Massimo, Marco Barricelli gives a performance that is perfectly stout and robust. As for the leads in the film, Jacob Tremblay, Jack Dylan Grazer, and Emma Berman are all absolutely marvelous in their roles

Luca may not belong in the highest tier of Disney/Pixar’s filmography, but it certainly deserves much adoration and respect nevertheless. It is an animated movie full of amiable messages, vibrant colors, and an undeniable love for Italian culture that should keep families well-entertained and amused.

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