REVIEW: Pixar film Luca delivers simple and heart-warming fun and friendship

BEST FRIENDS: Luca and Alberto are two teenage sea monsters who discover they can turn into humans when they leave the water.
BEST FRIENDS: Luca and Alberto are two teenage sea monsters who discover they can turn into humans when they leave the water.

LAST Christmas Disney+ delivered one of the biggest streaming hits of the summer in Pixar film Soul.

The existential tale about determinism and life and death was certainly bolder than anything Pixar had attempted before.

In fact, one criticism of Soul was it's plot was perhaps too psychological for young audiences.

The latest offering, Luca, returns the focus back to more simplistic concepts of discovery and friendship that have been the hallmarks of Pixar since they revolutionised children's movies with the release of Toy Story in 1995.

Luca tells the tale of a 13-year-old sea monster who is fascinated with the human world above the surface, only to be warned of the dangers by his parents.

Yes, that sounds awfully like the plot of Disney's The Little Mermaid, but thankfully Luca deviates into far more interesting territory than the aforementioned film, even if it doesn't contain any singing and dancing crustaceans.

One day Luca meets fellow teenage sea monster Alberto, who literally drags him out of the water.

It's here that Luca discovers sea monsters take on human form when they're dry and on land.

"Luca is a shy, polite, introverted, rule-following kid who has a secret desire to see the world and learn all he can," screenwriter Jesse Andrews says.

"But he's been told his whole life that sea monsters should never go above the surface of the water where all the interesting stuff seems to be happening."

This leads to Luca and Alberto forming a close friendship as they explore the world above the surface and dream of owning a Vespa scooter together to escape the boundaries of their parents and sea monster world.

"Their friendship brings out the best in Luca and gives him the confidence to spread his wings and take more risks," producer Kiri Hart says.

"It's an absolutely lovely, heart-warming story about friendship and how our friends can unlock certain parts of us, giving us the opportunity to discover something about ourselves."

While Luca's friendship with the more rambunctious Alberto is central to the film, Pixar have again created an elaborately visual world for their story to unfold.

The sea monster designs were modelled on medieval depictions that appeared in the Carta Marina - a Renaissance map dating back to 1539 - as well as sculptures found throughout Italy.

Luca is set in an Italian port village in the late '50s where the townsfolk play soccer, eat gelato and pasta and fish in the turquoise waters.

It's in this world that our literal fish-out-of-water protagonists meet street-smart tomboy Giulia and her one-armed fisherman father.

Giulia teaches the inquisitive Luca about astronomy and books, opening up his mind to the possibilities of the world.

"Giulia is a very special character," Hart says. "She's certain about what she believes and she's bold in asserting those beliefs.

"She's also funny and lively. She has so much passion for finding out how the world works. She becomes a catalyst for Luca."

Luca isn't the most original Pixar film. It's not aiming to made any profound statements like Soul, or even Coco.

It just wants to entertain and tell a heart-warming story, and sometimes that's all kids, and adults, need.


Streaming on Disney+