Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Luca, the Little Merboy

Set on the Italian Rivera, in an era before cellphones and the Internet, Luca is a fish out of water story. Literally. Living his life under the sea, the curious Luca (Jacob Tremblay) is drawn to the world on the surface despite his parents' (Maya Rudolph and Jim Gaffigan) warnings about the monsters lurking above. With the ability to assume human form when stepping onto land, Luca can't help be curious about the humans whose bizarre garbage makes it way to the bottom of the sea. Meeting another teen sea monster who has been passing for human pushes Luca to exploring the surface further and leaving his life under the sea behind him for the seaside community of Portorosso.

The coming of age story may not initially wow you, but Luca has more going on underneath the surface than a first glance may suggest. The setting of Portorosso is full of great designs to frame the simplistic desire of Luca and Alberto (Jack Dylan Grazer) to get their own Vespa and travel across the world. Making enemies with the local bully, and befriending a local girl (Emma Berman) turns to duo into a trio with shared desire to win the Portorosso Cup which may allow for all their dreams to come true.

The film is inspired by director Enrico Casarosa's childhood in Genoa, with animation and style inspired by the likes of Hayao Miyazaki and Federico Fellini. While computer animated, the animation also has a stop-motion feel towards it, separating it from other Disney and Pixar films. In many ways Luca is a fanciful look back on the friendships of youth while pulling inspiration from local folklore and Italian myths. The result is a movie that feels quite familiar, but with a fresh energy and excitement as the story unfolds. Luca and Alberto's need to hide their true nature from a society who aren't ready to see them as anything more than monsters, and children chaffing under the expectations of their parents, are likely to hit home for some audience members as well.

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