REVIEW: “Luca”; A Movie With A Lot Of Potential That Just Never Gets Off The Ground

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One thing I have to praise Pixar for, with the release of their latest animated film – at least Luca is an original story and not a sequel. The glory years of Pixar occurred when they promised us that new and original stories would always be their main focus, other than sequels to the Toy Story franchise. But then Cars 2 came along and they somehow realized that it was easier to make money with an already built-in audience and didn’t need to be overly concerned about originality and story.

To see that the last three films made by Pixar – Onward, Soul and Luca – were all original and new stories, seemed like a sign that maybe they learned their lesson and were returning to the promise that they once made. Unfortunately, the last three movies were not the best efforts by Pixar. It leaves me wondering if Pixar is still capable of creating a new and original story that is fun and entertaining? After seeing Luca, I’d say Pixar is in trouble.

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Luca is set in a beautiful seaside town on the Italian Riviera. It is a coming-of-age story about one young boy experiencing an unforgettable summer filled with gelato, pasta and endless scooter rides. Luca shares these adventures with his newfound best friend, but all the fun is threatened by a deeply-held secret: he is a sea monster from another world just below the water’s surface.

Sadly, Luca may be the absolute worst film that Pixar has ever made. I would gladly watch The Good Dinosaur and even Cars 2 before I would watch Luca again. There are so many problems with this film, but I wanted to start with what I felt was good first.

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Luca takes place in Italy around the 1950’s, and I love that they use authentic Italian pop music from that era. I have never heard of most of the songs that are played throughout the film, but they sound like they fit the time period and they sound very Italian.

Another positive is that, at times, the animation looks incredible. The opening scene with a pair of fishermen out on the sea on their fishing boat looks incredible. I had such high hopes within the first five minutes. Pixar also got the look of an old Italian village right. And the landscapes look absolutely beautiful.

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Now, for the bad. The character designs of the sea monsters and humans are just awful. Pixar used to mean quality. No other studio, even Disney at times, could touch the level of animation that Pixar was able to come out with year after year. Each movie seemed to set a new standard in how far you can go with CGI animation. What happened? These characters are on par with the humans from Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs. They just do not look good, nor are they memorable.

Speaking of not being memorable, after watching Luca, I dare you to name the three main characters. OK, I’ll give you Luca, but no one character is memorable in this movie. And that has a lot to do with the story. It’s boring. On top of all of that, the story also feels rushed. It’s like they wrote a beginning and an ending first, and then said, we’ll worry about what happens in the middle as we go. I can’t see why anyone would want to revisit this movie multiple times other than to maybe experience it using a different audio track, like Italian.

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Which brings me to the next problem, the voice acting. What I loved about Brave, was that everyone spoke with a Scottish brogue. The same thing occurred with Coco. People sounded as though they came from a true Mexican heritage. Luca has the main characters all speak with American accents and use slang from the current day. If a movie is set during a certain time period, stick to the language or dialect that was used back then.

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Italian actor and comedian Roberto Benigni

If this is a movie that takes place in Italy in the 50’s, then at the very least, hire Italian actors that sound Italian. Roberto Benigni would have been perfect for a movie like this. Instead they hired comedians like Maya Rudolph, Jim Gaffigan and Sacha Baron Cohen, who just aren’t funny in this. That’s not to say that no one speaks with an Italian accent. Most of the villagers do. But for some reason, they decided to have the three main characters and the sea monster all talk using American accents and slang.

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And similar to my one complaint with Raya And The Last Dragon, sometimes it’s better when characters just don’t talk. I think it would have been a more emotional story if the sea monsters did not speak. Or maybe just have Luca come ashore and have him communicate with the human girl through his actions. Sometimes expressing yourself without words is more effective. Can you imagine if Toothless talked in How To Train Your Dragon? The movie would have lost its charm. And that is exactly what this movie is lacking: charm. You don’t have any sympathy or connection to any of the characters.

I thought this movie had so much potential, but the lack of a good story and beautiful character designs resulted in the worst Pixar movie ever made, in my opinion. It kind of makes sense now why Luca is not part of Disney+’s Premium Access features. If people had to pay money for a movie like this, I think a lot of subscribers would be more hesitant to make future Premium Access movie purchases. Pixar has been really stumbling for years. Let’s hope that this is a wake up call for them. I’m happy that we are getting fewer sequels, but let’s hope we start getting more classics soon.

I give Luca a 4/10.