‘Luca’ on Disney+: A Story of Found Family, Friendship, and Triumph

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Sung Jin Cho

Hey, Hollywooders! What’s Good in the ‘Wood?

I just watched Luca, one of the many new movie releases available for streaming.

I recently watched my first few films in movie theaters after reading over our handy guide for safely returning to the movies, and after indulging in movie theater popcorn, I wanted to go back again. When I originally researched Luca, there was some confusing information as to whether or not the film would hit theaters. Besides the El Capitan Theatre, the only place to watch is on Disney+. I decided to watch it the morning it was released, so I gathered my roommates and pressed play.

What is Luca about?

Luca (directed by Enrico Casarosa) is an animated Pixar film that follows the story of an unlikely friendship on the Italian Riviera. Luca (voiced by Jacob Tremblay) is a sea monster boy who follows the rules but longs for exploration beyond what he knows and his family (voiced by Maya Rudolph, Jim Gaffigan, Sandy Martin, and Sacha Baron Cohen). Luca meets Alberto (voiced by  Jack Dylan Grazer), another sea monster boy who has the courage and bravery to leave the water to transform into a human boy.

The two boys become quick friends and long to travel the world on a Vespa. When Luca’s family threatens to send him away for putting himself in danger, Luca and Alberto run off to Portorosso, disguised in their human forms. They meet a human girl named Giulia (voiced by Emma Berman) who is trying to win the Portorosso Cup to end the winning streak of her rival, Ercole (voiced by Saverio Raimondo). The two boys join her team, hoping to win the prize money so they can buy their Vespa and travel the world.

Where is Luca set?

The movie is set in Portorosso, a small town on the Italian Riviera, between the 1950s and 1960s.

In an interview with Meredith Carey from Condé Nast Traveler, production designer Daniela Strijleva said, “I have to tell you, after four years of building this town of Portorosso, which is almost like the best parts of every one of the five real towns, I sometimes feel like this is a real place.” In the interview, she details the years of research, the ridiculous amount of photographs, and interacting with people who inspired the movie. As a viewer, you can really see the research and love in every frame of the film.

The last time I felt this attached to the beautifully crafted setting in a Pixar movie was Coco. Between the beautiful architecture, the ocean, and the soundtrack, I felt like my own feet were touching the Portorosso sand. There was no part of the setting that disappointed me. Even the background characters felt like someone I could see. It beautifully blended into a visual display that stunned not only me but my roommates as well.

What is the Portorosso Cup in Luca?

In the grand scheme of the movie, the Portorosso Cup is a conduit for the building of beautiful relationships and furthering the plot, but it’s successful in those goals. Luca, Alberto, and Giulia are painted as our underdogs with different strengths. My roommates and I immediately connected with them and could relate to them. They’re up against Ercole, a mean young adult who is lying about his age to keep winning the cup and the power that comes with it.

The competition theme leads to a lot of cute training scenes and montages that act as a place to build the characterization of our main three and show as they grow closer to one another. Meanwhile, Ercole’s team is constantly driven apart when they try to work together due to Ercole’s lack of appreciation and respect for his own team. Ercole’s team is a foil to Luca, Alberto, and Giulia and really furthers the connection I saw between the main three.

What are the themes in Luca?

Luca is a story about differences and overcoming them. Portorosso is afraid of sea monsters, and Luca’s family is afraid of humans (or land monsters). Luca has a larger family that can be overprotective, while Giulia has a smaller family, and Alberto has no family. Despite all of these differences, the movie proves that connection is possible amongst anyone and that people who understand you are only an exploration away.

The film is a story about exploration and finding your place in the world, even when people might not always get it or agree. Due to this, I think it’s a good family film for all ages that just about anyone can relate to.

What others thought about Luca

My friends and I really enjoyed Luca, but I wanted to see what other people had to say about it.

Viktor said Luca was very fun and he recommends it.

James said he can’t wait for the next Pixar movie after watching Luca.

Christina said Luca might have made it to her top five Pixar movies.

Ricky said that Pixar is outdoing itself.

In Rolling Stone’s review of the film, writer David Fear says:

“There’s a wistfulness embedded in the abundance of whimsy here — the same ache for something out of the past that you find at the center of all great Pixar movies — that thrums right beneath the bright, postcard-ready backgrounds and competing plotlines.”

Leah Greenblatt of Entertainment Weekly says:

“The story’s bright swirl of Pixar pixie dust, jangle soundtrack, and gentle lessons on accepting otherness and learning to move past fear feel like a temporary passport: a sweetly soulful all-ages dip in la dolce vita.”

I didn’t have any expectations for Luca, but I was impressed by the eye-catching visuals, the characters, and the setting. There is a short end scene post-credits to keep an eye out for. Like many fans, I find myself wanting a re-release in movie theaters so I can enjoy those visuals on a giant screen. And as James said above, I can’t wait to see what Pixar does next.

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