Pixar is one of the only animation studios that can compete at the box office against modern, live-action blockbusters. Still, Disney’s decision to send both Soul and Luca straight to Disney+ instead giving them a premium release in theaters and on Premier Access sent a clear message that the mouse house has questionable faith in the studio. But while Soul had clear merits for a premium release, for better and for worse, Luca belongs on Disney+.
Disney-Pixar’s Luca follows the titular character, an adolescent sea monster living off the coast of Italy, struggling to balance his life in the sea with his curiosity of the human world. Luca (Jacob Tremblay) forms a bond with Alberto (Jack Dylan Grazer), a young sea monster with experience with surface life. The two assume their human forms and attempt to blend into small town known for their hatred of their kind.
Now, if you are scratching your head because that plot synopsis seems a bit familiar, that’s because Luca is tragically derivative of so many films that came before. The plot is reminiscent Disney’s own The Little Mermaid down to the main characters having the exact same character traits. Luca also shows some similarities to Call Me By Your Name, which the internet is having a field day with. But instead exploring the complexities of sexuality, Pixar switches the themes to a much simpler and family friendly version that creates a generic allegory of accepting everyone’s unique features.
Pixar has a reputation for top quality animation and complex stories that speak to audiences of all ages. Sadly, Luca has neither.
Granted, the animation on Luca, is very aesthetically pleasing. The world it creates is beautifully simplistic and well designed. Still, the settings, locations, and scale are noticeably grounded compared to Pixar’s previous installations. Additionally, the animation may be more stylized and unique compared to previous Pixar projects, but it also sacrifices a bit of the quality. A perfect example of this the lack of detail in the characters hair (check out the difference).
Personally, I believe hair quality is a good, standard test for overall animation quality because it requires an attention to detail that Disney-Pixar has no excuse to sideline. The animation overall is not up to par with what Pixar consistently puts out. While I am totally aware that Pixar’s animators created this film from home during the pandemic, it is not on the shoulders of these talented animators to ensure the film meets their top quality on a short deadline. Disney-Pixar should not have forced the film to meet a deadline that makes its animators’ work seem subpar (especially when we know they are capable of more).
Unfortunately, unlike its rushed animation process, Luca has no excuse for its subpar story qualities. Pixar can create unique and captivating stories that resonates with audiences of all ages. Luca’s message clearly targets smaller children with the complexity of a high-quality Saturday morning cartoon. This does not make Luca a bad movie by any means; it just means its subpar to what Pixar is capable of.
The message and themes of intolerance vs. acceptance are generic and derivative of so many films that came before it, and its particularly derivative of Disney and Pixar’s own projects. Still, most of these movies are far more complex than Luca’s execution.
Does Luca have its shortfalls? Absolutely. Still, the movie itself makes for a solid, fun movie night. The film is a perfect fit for Disney+, and it could serve as a test case for a wildly successful line of smaller, more niche Pixar projects to have a home on the streaming service. If you manage your expectations, Luca makes for a fun movie night, particularly for a family with kids.
Filmnetic Grade: B