Reviewed by: Greg Mueller

Greg's Score:
4.63

Plot/Story

2

Characters

6

Acting

8

Cinematography

5

Production Design

5

Soundtrack

5

Execution

2

Emotional Impact

4


Review:

In typical "New Pixar" fashion, there are some technical things that Luca does very right and some story things that they do terribly wrong. Let's start with the obvious, Luca looks amazing... most of the time. Just like with the last couple of Pixar movies, backgrounds, nature shots, textures and motion on inanimate objects are all great. There were I couple of water frames where if you had shown it to me with no context, I'd have thought it was real. Water motion looks great, way better than what Disney does by themselves. As great at everything else looks, again Pixar fucks up their character models. It's very jarring to see this beautiful Italian village that looks almost photo-realistic and then have these DreamWorks looking characters traipse through. If everything looked animated it wouldn't be an issue, but what is the point in putting so much effort into making a brick look real if this shiny, flat video game character is going to stand on it? Again, I wouldn't care if the water looked animated too, but it only draws more focus to how unrealistic the character designs are. Putting that aside, the rest of the technical aspects are all fine, although it never really feels like the dialog is coming from the characters we are seeing. The voice acting itself is fine and (surprisingly) I have no one to complain about, but it feel disconnected from the visuals. The big issues here are the terrible world building and a cliche and uneventful story with an ending more unrealistic than fish people. We start with Luca living underwater with his family who appear to do absolutely nothing all day. Luca herds fish, I guess but we never get any idea why or to what end. His parents only exist to make sure he stays underwater and his grandmother sits there. In a movie with fish people, I expect to spend most of the world building to be about the fish people and not the humans living in a normal village. We get better backgrounds on the villagers than anything about fish life. We know absolutely nothing about what these "sea monsters" do and all we ever hear is that the surface is dangerous. Okay, is there going to be a story about some cousin who got caught in a fishing net or an uncle who has harpooned by humans? Nope. We learn that the village seems to have a fetish for being afraid or "sea monsters" but do we get a story about a fish-man committing a crime or a fish-lady peaking through windows at night? Nope, they are afraid just because. I'm not even sure any of them have seen a fish-person because of all of the many sculptures, posters, fountains, paintings, etc. dedicated to the hunting or fear of "sea monsters", none of them correctly capture what one looks like. The main story is very loose and really only hits a couple of beats. The actual plot scenes are very cliche with a lot of dead space in between. It's kind of boring and none of the humor really hits, but if that were all, it would be a C movie. Depending on how well you can just shut up and ignore terrible movie logic and plot convenience determines if it gets worse from there. As much as I don't want to be, I 100% am one of those people who is going to pick apart a movie about fish people complaining about "Why don't they just _____" and "What happens if___" issues. I'll spare you my nitpicking (like how contact with water makes the sea people revert to "sea monster" form, but they can eat and digest pasta and nothing happens, as if there is no water in any of it), but I do have to bring up one thing. All of the media and press I've seen for this, their entire ad campaign, pushes the Italian aspect of Luca. We have tons of interviews of the voice actors talking about pasta and small little fishing villages on the Italian coast, but nothing about this movie feels Italian. I'm seeing tons of reviews mentioning little homages to Italy or references to Italian culture, but I'm really not getting that. Underwater, there is nothing Italian at all. You assume at some point the two groups interacted, but all the sea people feel very white bread American. When we get to the village, we get a couple of side characters and background characters speaking Italian or having the accent, but a lot don't. Arguably our third most important character is just another American girl as far as I can tell. What is supposed to be Italian about this village? They eat pasta? Is it that the mention olive oil? In five minutes you could change this to a Polynesian village or any European country with a port. As much as I hated Moana, at least it used the Polynesian theme. Luca feels very American and nothing would change in any significant way if we moved the story to a small harbor town in New England. Every aspect of the story is under-developed to the point of frustration. The characters are all right, but it's hard to connect with people we know so little about. The only reason any of it works is because they hired capable voice actors. I understand the message of the movie (which has been done thousands of times and done better hundreds of times and is going to be interpreted in tons of different ways), but things work out way too quickly and unrealistically. In a movie about "sea monsters" that transform into human form when they leave the water, the ending is the most unrealistic thing. It's way too convenient, simplified, and fairy tale happy ending. I liked it more than Soul and it's probably a better movie than Onward, but it's easily in the bottom half of Pixar movies. It doesn't even really feel like a Pixar movie; it's missing the charm and the adult appeal I've come to expect.