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Luca Movie Review - Diversity Celebrated

Friendship can flourish despite great differences.

Reviewed by on Jun 16, 2021
Rating: 4 Star Rating

Disney•Pixar’s Luca. is a colorful, emotional fantasy with friendship despite diversity at its core. Action is also a visual treat in this beautifully-animated summer movie. Check out our review for Luca!

In Luca, it’s the 1950s in Portorosso, a seaside village on the Italian Riviera. Luca (voice of Joseph Tremblay), a tween boy, is also a sea monster yearning, like The Little Mermaid, for an adventure ashore where he becomes human. His parents Daniela (Maya Rudolph) and Lorenzo (Jim Gaffigan) are loving and over-protective, threatening to send their son to live in the ocean depths if he goes ashore. Ashore, Luca meets Alberto (Jack Dylan Grazer) another young sea monster who now lives on land. Tween human Giulia (Emma Berman) befriends them. The boys dream of adventure and enter the local triathlon race, teaming with Giulia and hoping to win money to buy a Vespa motorbike for their travels. Will their true selves be revealed? Can they ever be accepted?

The pals enjoy an Italian gelatoThe pals enjoy an Italian gelatoCourtesy of Disney•Pixar

Yearning for Adventure

With fishermen afraid of him, Luca gathers some human items that fall to the ocean floor from their boat. He shepherds a school of small, dumb fish to feeding grounds while yearning to visit the home of the land monsters where he is told he would appear as a human. When another young sea dweller Alberto eventually takes him ashore, he becomes human and relies on his new friend to help him do….everything.

Luca and Alberto create a hand-made Vespa motorbikeLuca and Alberto create a hand-made Vespa motorbikeCourtesy of Disney•Pixar

The guys spot a Vespa scooter and desperately want one. They try to make one but it disintegrates on first ride. What if they went to the human town? Luca’s parents learn of his exploits and threaten to make him go live for a while with his bottom dweller uncle, down deep where there is no light!

Alberto and Luca as sea monsters yearning for land lifeAlberto and Luca as sea monsters yearning for land lifeCourtesy of Disney•Pixar

Trip to Town

Could Alberto and Luca go to town?Could Alberto and Luca go to town?Courtesy of Disney•Pixar

Luca and Alberto swim to the village and reason that they can fit in…if they don’t get wet. Despite the images of fishermen killing sea creatures everywhere, Luca is charmed by human village life. They see a guy riding a coveted Vespa. This is town bully Ercole and he isn’t friendly to strangers. He almost dunks Luca in a fountain but Luca is rescued by Giulia, a tween girl who hates Ercole. He’s mean and always wins the town’s triathlon race which she enters each summer. The prize money might buy the boys their Vespa!

Luca transforms for the first time on landLuca transforms for the first time on landCourtesy of Disney•Pixar

Teaming with Giulia

The race consists of eating pasta, a bike race and a swimming competition. The guys team up with Giulia although Luca can’t ride a bike, never ate pasta and certainly can’t risk swimming!  Giulia’s dad Massimo (Marco Barricelli) would pay their entrance fee but has hasn’t caught enough fish lately. While Luca’s parents risk coming on land and turn human looking for him, the boys go fishing with Massimo, guide him to the best fishing grounds and he catches plenty of fish to sell and afford the race entry fee. The parents realize they can’t recognize their son as a human and start dunking local boys in fountains! Anything to get them wet. Alberto and Luca have to train for the race. It sounds really hard!

Luca, Alberto and Giulia become friends and teammatesLuca, Alberto and Giulia become friends and teammatesCourtesy of Disney•Pixar


Ercole makes it his mission to destroy Giulia’s team and the guys start training. Luca will ride the bike, Giulia will swim and Alberto will eat pasta. Luca works hard on the bike but recognizes his parents in town!

First dinner with a human at Giulia's houseFirst dinner with a human at Giulia's houseCourtesy of Disney•Pixar

The guys are staying in a tree house at Giulia’s dad’s place. She lives with her mom in another town and only visits dad in the summers. She feels like she doesn’t belong here. Luca can identify with that. When Giulia gives him a book on the Universe, Luca’s thirst for more knowledge about the whole world is ignited and he wants to go to school with her. Alberto is jealous of their relationship. Who needs school? He reminds Luca that his “fish face” would never be accepted there. Luca sees that his pal really isn’t the greatest example for him.

Practicing for the pasta-eating competitionPracticing for the pasta-eating competitionCourtesy of Disney•Pixar

A Chase

Luca and Alberto hop on the bike to escape when Luca’s parents finally recognize him and give chase. They land in the ocean. As sea monsters, they have to come ashore on a hidden beach. The guys fight over Luca’s interest in school etc. Giulia catches them and Alberto reveals his true self to show her just how “different” her new friends are. They won’t fit in. She freaks and yells “sea monster!”. Ercole overhears and he and his thugs rush to kill the monster. Alberto has to swim away. Later, when Luca gets water on his hands, his identity is revealed to Giulia as well. She explains how dangerous it is for Luca to be here. Her dad hunts sea monsters! She wants him there but he is risking his life! He leaves, first looking for Alberto whom he finds human and pouting saying “I’m the kid who ruins everything. Just go away.” Luca must enter the race alone.

Alberto explains human life in the village squareAlberto explains human life in the village squareCourtesy of Disney•Pixar

The Race

During the race, in which Ercola, of course, cheats, obstacles to swimming and even pasta eating threaten both Luca and Giulia. When it starts raining during the bike race, Alberto appears with a big umbrella trying to protect Luca from turning into his true self. It doesn’t work and, when Alberto gets wet, Ercola sees him along with townspeople who scream. To save Alberto, Luca reveals himself and rescues him. Both on the bike, the guys see Giulia fall down and go back to help her. Can they win anyway? Will the townspeople ever accept them? Will Luca’s parents convince him to return to the water? Can he ever go to human school? Will Alberto and Luca stay friends?

Luca is fascinated by the human villageLuca is fascinated by the human villageCourtesy of Disney•Pixar

Watch through the end credits for some cool drawings that illustrate Luca and Alberto’s lives after the movie story ends.  There is also a tag featuring Luca’s bottom-dweller Uncle. Very cute!

Wrapping Up

An end credit for Luca says “Made at home in our slippers”. The Emeryville campus of Pixar was closed due to Covid-19.  Well these folks work well in their P.J.’s to create a warm summer film.

Luca and Alberto see Ercola on a coveted VespaLuca and Alberto see Ercola on a coveted VespaCourtesy of Disney•Pixar

Some of Luca might not be that relatable to a lot of kids/teens. Who has owning a tiny Vespa motor scooter as his or her ultimate dream? We wonder if a fear of sea monsters is especially a major malady in Italian portside villages. All of the Italian songs might not ring a bell either. What IS relatable is the angst of a kid who is different and fears never being accepted by his peers or adults. Also familiar is learning to stand up to a bully and a thirst for knowledge of the world one did not grow up in. A lonely need for friends we can trust is in there too. The very basic story of the movie might remind us of The Little Mermaid but the comparisons stop there.

Despite being of the same sea monster species, besties Luca and Alberto are very different. Alberto has a good heart but doesn’t have Luca’s thirst for knowledge and is used to doing things only his way. He also has the bravery that comes from a devil-may–care attitude but this helps Luca loosen up and take risks. The buddies complete each other. The kids in the film are at that age when a circle of pals becomes essential but we all start to celebrate our individuality as well.

Alberto shows Luca life on shoreAlberto shows Luca life on shoreCourtesy of Disney•Pixar

Action is fast-paced. We can see a delightful theme park ride being made of the bike race and the boys’ hurling themselves down a hill into the ocean on a falling-apart, home-constructed wooden motorbike.

As usual with Pixar, the backgrounds etc. are beautifully and accurately animated. I wanted to eat all the pasta pictured and have a gelato for dessert!  The small Italian Riviera town in the 1950’s seems completely real. Fantasy sequences in which Luca explores all that is new to him, are fanciful and just beautiful. It’s a shame the film is not going into big-screen theaters as well as Disney+. The El Capitan theater in Hollywood is the only exception in the U.S.

Voice actors give believable performances. Great teen actor Joseph Tremblay hits all the notes as Luca and voice actor Saverio Raimondo is especially menacing and sleazy as villainous town bully Ercole. Luca is just fun and ultimately very relatable. We award four stars.

Luca Movie Rating: 4

Luca Movie Review - Diversity Celebrated | Disney  | PixarLuca Movie Review - Diversity Celebrated | Disney | PixarCourtesy of Disney•Pixar

See Luca only on Disney+ starting June 18th!