After giving us all an existential crisis with Soul, the folks at Pixar have taken things down a few notches with Luca. It’s a charming story about two boys – Luca (Jacob Tremblay) and Alberto (Jack Dylan Glazer) – who become best friends over a summer in the Italian Riviera. They also happen to be sea monsters. 

This is a much lighter Pixar film than we’re used to; though being among humans is dangerous for the young mermen, the stakes feel less like a matter of life and death. But it would be wrong to call it a lesser film, because director Enrico Casarosa understands the way we see the world when we’re young. Watching your friend choose to hang out with someone else is like the worst betrayal in the world, and saving up the money to buy a Vespa really is a matter of life and death. 

That laid-back perspective extends to the film’s art style. Rather than striving for photorealism, the seaside town of Portorosso feels almost painterly, with soft edges bathed in golden sunshine. The copious amounts of pasta and gelato on display look as delicious as anything Studio Ghibli has cooked up, while the characters are all animated in a pleasingly tactile way that recalls the work of Aardman.

The lack of plot contrivances also means the characters are given the space to feel properly fleshed-out. Most grown-up viewers will see something of their younger selves in the anxious Luca, the self-assured Alberto or their spunky human friend Giulia. And while the ultimate message about embracing your differences might seem predictable, few recent films for young audiences have delivered it with quite this much charm.

Luca may not feel as revolutionary as some of Pixar’s finest films, but it feels familiar in the best possible way; like revisiting fond memories of glorious childhood summers.



CAST: Jacob Tremblay, Jack Dylan Glazer, Emma Berman, Maya Rudolph, Jim Gaffigan, Marco Barricelli, Saverio Raimondo, Sacha Baron Cohen

DIRECTOR: Enrico Casarosa

WRITERS: Enrico Casarosa (story), Jesse Andrews and Simon Stephenson (screenplay)

SYNOPSIS: On the Italian Riviera, an unlikely but strong friendship grows between a human being and a sea monster disguised as a human.