Review: Luke (2021)

Luke (2021)

Directed by: Enrico Casarosa | 95 minutes | animation, adventure | Original voice cast: Jacob Tremblay, Jack Dylan Grazer, Emma Berman, Saverio Raimondo, Maya Rudolph, Marco Barricelli, Jim Gaffigan, Peter Sohn, Lorenzo Crisci, Marina Massironi, Gino La Monica, Sandy Martin, Giacomo Gianniotti, Elisa Gabrielli, Mimi Maynard, Sacha Baron Cohen, Francesca Fanti, Jonathan Nichols, Enrico Casarosa, Jim Pirri

Every new Pixar animated film is eagerly awaited, because the name Pixar is synonymous with quality. While not everyone is a fan of all films, those who can’t stand the moralizing message of ‘WALL-E’ or the human-less world of ‘Cars’ can’t deny that the makers know their trade very well.

In 2021, ‘Luca’ will be the latest movie to make its appearance. Not in theaters, but directly on Disney+, the streaming platform of Pixar’s parent company. It is probably due to the aftermath of the corona pandemic that Disney has decided not to release the film on the silver screen. Not everyone is happy with that either, but hopefully that won’t have a negative impact on the film, because ‘Luca’ is another beautifully designed fairy tale about friendship and acceptance. Director Enrico Casarosa has turned it into a wonderfully nostalgic summer film, set sometime in the early 1960s on the Ligurian coast around Genoa. Not entirely coincidentally also the environment where he comes from, although the film is set well before Casarosa’s own childhood (he was born in 1971).

In the film, 13-year-old Luca Paguro lives with his parents and grandmother near the town of Portorosso. Not in a village or in the countryside, but underwater off the coast. The Paguro family (which means hermit crab in Dutch) are sea monsters. His parents are terrified of the people of the town, some of whom believe that the sea monsters are not folklore, but are real and try to hunt them.

Of course, his parents’ warnings that the land is dangerous are in vain. Luca is bored to death as a fish herder. He babysits a school of young red mullet every day. (in English that works better as a joke: there the fish that Luca herds are also called ‘goatfish’, or ‘goat fish’).

When he finds various utensils that have fallen from a boat, this stimulates his curiosity and then he comes across a sea monster unknown to him in search of more items. That turns out to be a slightly older boy named Alberto Scorfano (Scorfano means scorpionfish). Then Luca is shocked to find that when he comes to land, he takes on a human form. The same goes for Alberto, who lives alone in a dilapidated tower on a deserted island. His father is only there sporadically, according to Alberto, and the two boys soon become best friends. Luca is impressed by Alberto’s desire to own a Vespa and explore the world. Thus he deceives his parents for a while. When they want to temper his desire for the land by sending his uncle Ugo, a monkfish, to the depths, Luca runs away and moves in with Alberto.

When the boys arrive as human beings in the picturesque town of Portorosso, full of movie posters of Italian classics and where they have apparently never seen a tourist, it becomes clear to the viewer that the film is set sometime in the early 1960s. Luca and Alberto befriend the over-enthusiastic girl Julia. She lives partly with her father, a one-armed fisherman, and partly with her mother in Genoa, where she also attends school. Every year she takes part in the local triathlon – swimming, eating a plate of pasta and cycling – but she loses to the mean Ercole Visconti, an older boy who has won five years in a row and rides a beautiful red Vespa. The trio decides to participate in the triathlon as the team “the underdogs”. And then their adventures really begin…

With ‘Luca’ Pixar is aiming again at the younger viewers. Unlike some of its predecessors, this film contains fewer jokes that might appeal to adults as well. But that’s not a bad thing, because there is also plenty to enjoy for watching parents or grandparents. The design is again beautiful. The underwater scenes sometimes seem less detailed than in ‘Finding Dory’, for example, but that is more due to the animation style than to a loss of quality. In the scenes in and around Portorosso, the summer sun seems to shine from the television. The musical setting is Italian swing music, jazzy tunes and a touch of opera. The movie’s message is quite subtle and pretty much implies that it doesn’t matter to be “different” from “normal” people. Of course, loyalty and friendship are again central and the bully gets what he deserved. For an animation film intended for children, these are easily understandable subjects, which pass by without being pushy and without much depth.

Excellent entertainment, good for more than 1.5 hours of entertainment. And now looking forward to the next movie that Pixar will release.

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