On June 18th, 2021, Pixar Studios released its first film since Soul, Enrico Casarosa's Luca, which tells the story of two boys from the Italian Riviera who live double lives as sea monsters. Ever since its release mere days ago, the film has been met with almost ubiquitous applause from all around the world, and after watching it I can definitely see why, however I've found my opinions of Luca to deviate greatly from what I've seen. So I thought I would share my opinions about Pixar's great yet flawed film.
On the bright side of things, Luca is an undeniably gorgeous film in terms of visuals. The animation is exactly what you'd expect from Pixar, the character design is amazing and the scenery is among some of the best we've seen from the studio yet. Usually I tend to not care for child actor performances but that wasn't a problem here. Jacob Tremblay, Jack Dylan Grazer, and Emma Berman all gave pretty good performances and gave a lot of life to their respective roles. The classic dynamic between the main characters evokes such a pleasant feeling of nostalgia. The writing is genuinely heartfelt and I really enjoyed the themes of identity, chosen family, and getting out of your comfort zone. An aspect of Luca that tends to get overlooked is its stellar soundtrack by Dan Romer. At first I was skeptical to see a score that wasn't composed by a Pixar veteran like Michael Giacchino or Thomas Newman, but I enjoyed Romer's music quite a bit. As complicated as my opinion is on this movie, there's no doubting it's a beautiful, well made film with a lot of creativity behind it. Overall, not very out of character for Pixar.
Enrico Casarosa's Luca is a movie that feels like an amalgamation of films that came before it. The underwater setting and overprotective parent subplot reminds one of Finding Nemo and it also shares similarities with Ratatouille and Toy Story. However, there is one unlikely film that Luca is reminding thousands of and that is 2017's Call Me By Your Name. In the short period since its release, Luca has drawn criticism for resembling Call Me By Your Name which was coincidentally directed by....Luca Guadagnino. After watching the film a few times, it's easy to see why. The two main characters, Luca and Alberto are widely thought to be written as a supposed couple and many have pointed to the movie as an example of Pixar "queer-baiting." A lot of people see Luca as Disney and Pixar creating gay characters without explicitly showing it in order to make their film more marketable to a mainstream audience.
While the Western Hemisphere has had its fair share of LGBT films throughout the years, people often forget just how taboo of a subject homosexuality is in eastern countries, including one of Pixar's biggest sources of money: China. On December 31st, 2015, the Chinese State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film, and Television (SARFT) announced a new rule that outlawed any film or television that depicted "unnormal sexual relationships," unfortunately including homosexuality. As a result of this, major studios like Pixar and Disney are banned from releasing their films in the world's most populous country. I wholeheartedly believe that if it weren't for the restrictive homophobic laws in China and other countries, Luca would've undoubtably been an LGBT film, and I am far from the only one who thinks so.
But other than that what else is so wrong with this movie? The truth is...not much. Although it's a film loaded with positive messages and stunning atmospheres, Luca does feel a bit stagnant at points and takes way fewer risks than its Pixar predecessors like The Incredibles or Ratatouile. The movie also tends to fall victim to many classic clichés but that's to be expected from Pixar at this point. Overall, Enrico Casarosa's Luca will make for a great family film and you'll probably get something out of it no matter what age you are. Until China changes its homophobic film laws or Disney is willing to lose some ticket sales, it's a safe bet that we won't get the tried and true LGBT movie we deserve from the studio. For now, Luca will simply have to do.