Luca Review | Pixar’s Voyage to Italy is Bellissimo

The newest entry to the Pixar catalogue is Luca, a coming-of-age fantasy that takes a deep dive into the waters of the 1950’s/60’s Italian Riviera. It centres upon Luca Paguro, a sea monster boy with the ability to look like a human while on land. Directed by Enrico Casarosa (Academy Award winner for the short La Luna) and featuring the stellar voice talents of Jacob Tremblay and Maya Rudolph, the movie is a Miyazaki-esque homage to Casarosa’s own childhood memories.

The opening stretch of Luca recalls other Pixar favourite Finding Nemo, thanks to the childhood curiosity of the protagonist and the beautifully rendered underwater scenes. However, as the film goes on, it starts to feel more akin to the Studio Ghibli style, particularly Porco Rosso. In fact, the title of the town in which most of Luca’s action takes place is “Portorosso”, a possible homage to the Miyazaki film.

Luca boasts all the emotion and thematic weight audiences have come to expect from a Pixar film. Early on, we are shown the uncertainty of our main character, a young boy with an urge for freedom. He wants to follow his dreams and venture out into the unknown – here represented by the neighbouring coastal town where the humans live. It’s there we see a small community filled with prejudice and fear, as well as one of the most effectively unlikeable small-time antagonists to ever grace a children’s movie. At the same time, the movie juxtaposes the hopefulness of its young protagonists with Luca’s more jaded, set in their way parents – all of whom wind up travelling to Portorosso for different reasons and results.

The animation is fluid and the character designs feel thoughtful and provocative. Scales act as hair and fins look like ears. It is a style that has clearly had immense thought put into it, swimming its characters through beautiful town backdrops, a football match sequence and scenes on fishing boats and during high stakes races.


Nothing in Luca ever feels like it is forced. All of the plot points it sets up are wrapped up satisfyingly as comedy is dotted throughout to break up the scenes of despair and pain for the lead characters. While the movie contains moments of both youthful joy and melancholy, the entire film is held together by a delicate and warm charm.

Casarosa has talked about how childhood friendships are often what help us to be the people we grow into, and viewers can see that belief in spades throughout Luca. Classic Italian films from the likes of Federico Fellini are honoured here, alongside nods to Aardman’s stop motion glory. The sheer detail in everything from the music to the design choices is immense, transporting audiences to Italy. Pixar teams reportedly spent time on a trip to the Italian Riviera to fully capture the landscape, essence and atmosphere of the location and it shows.

The brilliance of Luca is all the more impressive, given it was made during the Covid pandemic. Despite the production challenges, Pixar have managed to draw viewers once again into a magical land full of wonder, hope and beauty. Bravo.

Luca is streaming on Disney+.

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