Streaming Friday on Disney+ is “Luca,” a fish out of water story of two friends on a quest for adventure. The film is a simple celebration of summer, complete with slapstick humor, over the top accents and a sun-splashed Italian village. Unlike other recent straight-to-streaming releases during the pandemic, “Luca” will be available for all Disney+ subscribers without the additional Premiere Access fee.
Luca (Jacob Tremblay) is a sea monster with over protective parents (Maya Rudolph and Jim Gaffigan) who finds his human form when he breaches the surface and meets Alberto (Jack Dylan Grazer). Luca and Alberto dream of adventure, and determine the best way to find is with a Vespa. Upon entering the village of Portorosso, they join forces with Giulia (Emma Berman) in order to win an Italian triathlon (bike, swim, pasta) and enough prize money for their precious scooter.
“Luca” has elements of many Disney and Pixar films that have preceded it: the yearning for the surface from “The Little Mermaid,” the overprotective parents of “Finding Nemo,” and the underdog child in a race for glory of “Wreck It Ralph.” Smaller elements of the movie–jokes, visuals, animation style-are familiar from other properties, Disney and otherwise. The target demographic of “Luca” feels younger than the usual Pixar film and it doesn’t have the same cross-generational appeal the studio is known for, which perhaps explains why its release is limited to Disney+.
“Luca” does have a very cute animation style with a unique design for the sea monsters. The film does a good job of translating human faces to sea monsters, and makes use of the transitions for some nice visual gags. The upside of the film’s more simple goals is that it is not the same emotional rollercoaster as a usual Pixar film and is an easier watch than “Inside Out,” “Toy Story,” or, heaven forbid, “Up.” This means it feels more like a made for TV movie than a feature film, and would benefit from a shorter runtime.
While “Luca” doesn’t have quite as broad an age range of appeal as expected from a Pixar film, it is nevertheless a cute, lighthearted work that will evoke summer camp, fast friends and a craving for pasta.