Disney’s ‘Luca’: Of fun, friends and foes

Mohammed Rayaan | Updated on June 22, 2021

Stunning visuals: Each character has been drawn with thought and sophistication in Disney’s Luca   -  PIXAR

‘Luca’ melds clever cinematic technology with a sharp script and spirited voices: The outcome is a film that keeps you glued to your sofa

* Luca, voiced by Jacob Tremblay, is part-human and part-sea monster

* With the adventurous Alberto, timid Luca escapes to the fictitious Italian town of Portorosso, where the two hope to win a triathlon

* With a stellar voice cast, visual design and music, Luca is a film that appeals to all ages

* * *

Pixar Animation Studios have been making some of the best animated films of recent times — from the Toy Story series to The Incredibles, and from Cars to Monsters, Inc. The studio has just added another feather to its already well-plumed cap: A film that entertains people of all ages.

With the world cocooned inside their homes because of the pandemic, the studio — a subsidiary of Walt Disney Studios — has been focusing on OTT releases. Its latest offering Luca, now streaming on Disney + HotStar, melds ingenious cinematic technology with a sharp script and voices. And the outcome is a film that keeps you glued to your sofa.

The titular character, voiced by Jacob Tremblay (of Wonder fame), is part-human and part-sea monster. Luca lives in the ocean with his father Lorenzo Paguro (Jim Gaffigan), mother Daniela Paguro (Maya Rudolph) and grandma Paguro (Sandy Martin) and spends his days ‘shepherding’ fish to the nearest farm land or seaweeds.

The underground sea world is flawlessly designed, and that is not surprising, for we have seen the studio create magic with the sea in the Finding Nemo Series. In Luca, however, we don’t spend much time in the ocean, barring scenes in the first act. Luca’s home is a cave that overlooks a hill with a massive farm land.

Luca is bored. Boredom drives him to explore the junk lying around on the ocean bed that has been dropped by ‘Land monsters’ — that is, humans. And that is when he meets Alberto (voiced by the spirited Jack Dylan Grazer), a young fellow sea monster who lives on an island. Luca’s life takes a turn as he steps out of the ocean with Alberto and learns that every sea monster turns into a human on land.

Luca’s mother, however, grounds him, so to speak, and wants to send him deep into the ocean to stay with his Uncle Ugo (voiced by a deep-throated Sacha Baron Cohen). Luca escapes and reaches the fictional Italian town of Portorosso with Alberto. The duo decides to take part in a triathlon race to win the prize money with which they plan to buy a Vespa scooter. Along the way, they become friends with a young girl named Giulia Marcovaldo (Emma Berman).

Of course, it’s not going to be easy as their path to success is blocked by a local bully, Ercole Visconti (Saverio Raimondo). Giulia hates Ercole with a passion, and wants to bring down “his evil empire of injustice”.

Luca, Alberto, Giulia practise for the race while Luca’s parents, now in human form, search for him. There is a hysterically comic sequence where his mother deliberately kicks every human kid into a fountain while playing football to find her part-monster kid. Luca and Alberto’s friendship also takes a testy turn as the movie progresses for their opinion and taste on varied issues differ. Meanwhile, the residents of Portorosso are on high alert as rumours spread about sea monsters.

A great many factors make this movie stand apart from other animated films. One, of course, is the visual design of the sets. Portorosso is a beautiful town, quaint, quiet, and charming. The town square, the cobbled stone streets, the narrow tiny homes, the rising hills, the balconies and of course, the people, make it such a perfect town that you want to settle there.

Second, each character has been drawn with remarkable thought and sophistication. Luca is exceedingly timid, but still wants to experiment. Alberto, on the other hand, is bold, and always ready to face the consequences of his actions. Giulia has a tomboyish-nerdy essence to her which is endearing. She loves reading and pedals up and down the town in her rusty old cycle. She’ll do whatever it takes to defeat Ercole. Her father, Massimo Marcovaldo (Marco Barricelli) is a giant of a one-armed man who fishes by the sea. A man of few words, he becomes particularly fond of Alberto, for whom he cooks pasta.

Third, the voice cast endows the characters with magic. Tremblay pulls just the right notes as Luca explores the human world. With Alberto voiced by Grazer, the duo’s dialogues spin back and forth like a tennis match.

But Rudolph as Luca’s mother takes the crown. Having voice performed in other animated movies such as Shrek the third, Big Hero 6 and The Angry Birds, Rudolph knows the medium well. With a range of inflections in her voice, she plays the role of a mother, stern at times, loving, worried — the works. The part when she realises that her kid is growing up has been directed with such heart and soul that it is hard to accept that this is all just animation.

Under the able direction of Enrico Casarosa, who earned an Oscar nomination in 2012 for his animated short film, La Luna, Luca follows the storytelling magic ingredient of almost every successful Pixar movie: Its character-driven plot. The screenplay and the characters, along with the imaginative, visual brilliance and heart-warming music, lift our spirits — soaring the way Luca and Alberto fly when they jump off from a cliff.

Published on June 22, 2021

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