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Luca has the same dream as The Good Dinosaur (2015), Incredibles 2 (2018), and Onward (2020). The titles above are far from bad. It’s good, and if it was released by another studio, it might be called the studio’s best work. “Unfortunately”, they were released right after the films labeled “Pixar’s best outputs”, which had unbelievably high standards. Luca comes six months after Soul, and looks inferior by comparison. In fact, the only “sin” of Enrico Casarosa’s debut in this directing chair, is just a familiar impression.Top Movie Site

Once upon a time, there lived Luca Paguro (Jacob Tremblay), a 13-year-old sea monster who was curious about life on land. That curiosity must be suppressed, because of the prohibition that Daniela (Maya Rudolph), his mother always throws. The reason is, humans will definitely kill all the sea monsters they see. The sea monsters themselves refer to humans as “land monsters”. Yes, it’s a matter of perspective. The issue of stigma arising from ignorance. About the difficulty of being “different”.

The script by Jesse Andrews (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl) and Mike Jones (Soul) is a story filled with messages that we might find in a new film every week. Everything is presented solidly, although indeed, it lacks a unique Pixar-style touch. There is no detailed world mythology as we saw in the Finding Nemo series, for example, as fellow Pixar films set under the sea. The same is true for the mother-daughter relationship, which usually offers fresh insight, rather than the “rigid parent versus curious child” conflict. Best Movie

But again, all the elements are in the right place. Familiar, yet solid. It’s even more interesting when Luca meets Alberto Scorfano (Jack Dylan Grazer), a sea monster who has experience living on land. From Alberto, Luca learned to live on the surface (after learning that the body of a sea monster can transform into a human), and even found his dream, namely to ride a vespa. How do sea monsters get a vespa?

Meeting with Giulia Marcovaldo (Emma Berman), the girl with an adventurous spirit, opens the way there. Giulia provides information about the prize money races that are held each summer. The three start to form a team, training together, while Luca slowly learns about how vast the world he doesn’t know is.

Set in Italy in 1963, it’s only natural that Enrico Casarosa inserts several tributes to Italian films from that era, although when it comes to visuals, the influence of Studio Ghibli films, especially Ponyo (2008), will dominate the conversation. For example in some surreal scenes as a picture of Luca’s wishful thinking, which is reminiscent of Federico Fellini’s 8½ (1963). Fellini’s work did have a big influence on Casarosa’s direction, including one of the substantial scenes I’ll touch on later.

The Luca-Alberto relationship produces interesting dynamics. A teenager who wants to appear to know everything, and a naive younger teen. Alberto often seems to know a lot, but it’s not based on arrogance. There is a heartbreaking story about a young man who felt his life was a miserable failure, thus turning it into a defense mechanism. Tremblay and Grazer appear impressive as fillers, both when handling humor that is at least able to provoke a smile, as well as conveying emotions.

Even though the majority of them revolve around the familiar realm, there is one interesting modification that the script did, related to the formula for the coming-of-age film set in summer vacation. The story often depicts individuals who spend vacations in a place (usually a city smaller than where they live), to then study, then return home after experiencing maturity. It’s a bit different here. There is such a figure (Giulia), but she is not the main character, but the one who opens the door for the main character. Luca is not about a “visit”, but a “going out”, or perhaps more accurately a “departure”. Movie Review

The final round experienced ups and downs in quality. After the heartbreaking (and surprising) peak of the conflict, the climax is filled with formulaic chases, before offering a solution full of simplification about community acceptance. But Casarosa’s directing was able to deliver a heart at the right time, dose, and place. Including the closing scene, which is a tribute to Fellini’s I Vitelloni (1953), although most viewers seem to tend to associate it with Call Me By Your Name (2017). Depending on how you look at it, what kind of relationship actually exists between Luca and Alberto.

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