Luca is a perfectly normal kid who lives under the sea and wants to go where the people are.
That sounds awfully familar.
All right, this is Luca, the second in Disney’s efforts to kill off Pixar by not releasing its movies for free on their streaming service (and you know that’s what they’re doing). In it, we meet Luca, a little sea monster who is curious about the world around him. One day, he meets a fellow sea monster named Alberto who lives on the surface and the two of them form a friendship that sees them journey to the human world, meet a human friend, and enter a human race for a human Vespa because they want to use it to see the rest of the world.
As far as movies go, Luca is a great time but, as a Pixar movie, it’s a mid-level effort at best. Sadly, with a few exceptions, Pixar is a studio in a state of decline and movies like Luca, which are perfectly serviceable, yet nothing special are an indicator of this decline.
I know it’s strange to say that a good movie is a sign of a studio’s decline, but this is Pixar we’re talking about. This is the studio that took a certain satisfaction in destroying us emotionally every year or so, and now they’re doing movies that Blue Sky or Dreamworks would be doing on their best day.
This is Pixar, darn it. Pixar.
This would be like if Laika ever got successful and then started churning out formulaic crowd-pleasers.
Actually, maybe that’s why Laika has never been successful which is a shame because it’s an amazing studio who makes amazing movies.
Luca is good, don’t get me wrong. The colors are bright and vibrant, the premise is inventive and fun, and the characters are very likeable. The jokes are funny, the setting is wonderful, and the music is fine. The problem is, aside from very little in Luca, we’ve seen it before. We’ve seen the story beats, we’ve seen the underwater vistas, we’ve seen the formula… we know that this is a movie about growth and discovery because we’ve seen Tarzan and Toy Story 3 and Finding Nemo and a dozen other movies. Very little about Luca feels novel. Even the character designs seem virtually lifted from everything from Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs to Captain Underpants.
That being said, Luca does its best with what it has and, I’ll say this again, it is a good movie despite the fact that it’s not very surprising or original. I was kind of hoping, given its premise, it would have been more inventive rather than falling back on tried and true formulas. It’s a good movie, but considering that this same studio gave us Soul last Christmas, it is a definite step down.
But, for what it is, it is fine. A valiant mid-level effort from Pixar. The only real disappointment is that I know this studio can and has done better with a lot less.