Fresh off the success of ‘Soul’, Pixar is back at it again with “Luca”, a sea monster from below the depths who steps out onto the surface and forms a friendship with another sea monster while learning about the gulf between independence; adolescence and acceptance on who you really are.
Can I just say I am horrifically conflicted on this installment to Pixar’s resume and most of that comes from the story? I’m sorry, guys but I don’t know how to feel about this.
From a technical standpoint, it’s what we’ve come to expect from Pixar. It’s serene style of eye-popping, salivating, crispy clear vibrancy defines Pixar’s usual approach to photorealism in most of their recent flicks and the voice acting does elevate the illusionary sentiment of the scenery for as long as it could. However, similar to Spirit Untamed, the characters themselves look too cartoonish against those backdrops to feel as if they actually fit in that world. I can’t say much beyond how great the visual appeal is and how it ties nicely into the framework and cinematography. Musical score is standard enough to be passable along with the directing. But that last bit is such a shame, since debutant Enrico Casarosa believed heavily in the conviction he was bringing to the story as director and it—ok, onto what toned me out of this.
In the storytelling department, I don’t know whether to be underwhelmed or just take it as it is. This is the first time in a while I’ve seen a Pixar film that I’ve been conflicted over a severe lack of world-building, backstory or any compelling stakes or consequences for any of the decisions these characters do and—I think what I’m trying to say is this movie feels aimless. I was legitimately about to criticize the story at hand for being too attached to its own familiar tropes and retreading too much well-cultivated ground, hamstrung by a lack of depth and character development…..
….and then suddenly, I figured it out.
Somebody who wrote this movie must’ve been watching a lot of Miyazaki because the Studio Ghibli influences here are apparent around every corner. The fleetingness, the low level stakes, the summer feeling to be just the sublime mix of fun, entertainment and relaxation; this nod (I guess) to films like Ponyo or Kiki’s Delivery Service does supply this illuminating dreamy atmosphere that helps suck me into the human world and it’s gorgeous landscapes…..but it still doesn’t completely block out how generic and simplistic this literal fish out of water story is, even for Pixar’s standards. Even if you were to take those influences away, the pacing’s frantic rancidity left us with a script that was rushed, characters who don’t change, one of the lamest Pixar antagonists yet and an ending that just sort of happens.
It’s no cutting edge masterpiece but it isn’t trying to be…..and that’s unfortunately my problem. I know every film they make doesn’t have to be deep and it’s a fun, cute movie on its own merit but for the interesting premise they have, they rarely do anything interesting with it. Consider yourself lucky you never bored me, Luca.