“Luca” is a film full of the life and hope that many of us feel right now. Luca is also an adventurous kid after our own hearts as we figure out what to do with our newfound freedom. And what an unexpected way to restart life in cinema as the pandemic clears from our lives - with an animated Disney film set in 1950s Italy about a “Little Mermaid” of a boy sea creature who comes of age aground over one glorious summer.
The spirit of our current Spiderman, Tom Holland, lives in Luca, an obedient but inquisitive water-logged kid filled with his family’s tales of hunters on boats and land and fear of the surface. He remains miraculously sheltered despite the fact that he can actually see the shore from their tiny spot in the ocean and the knowledge that stepping on land nearly instantaneously and completely painlessly turns him into a 100% human boy, clothes and all, no consequences.
After years of tending a flock - sorry, school - of sheep-fish and collecting sunken items from ships just like Ariel, a chance encounter with an older Vespa-obsessed serpent-boy who’s already made the leap of faith out of the water for his own reasons, Luca is forever changed.
Luca and Alberto explore the local town together, make friends and even take on the local bully. Eventually they focus their considerable energy on entering a local, uniquely Italian triathlon (biking, swimming and eating pasta!) to win their coveted Vespa and continue their landlocked exploration around the world.
While training, they have to hide their double identities by staying away from any kind of water which will quickly reveal their colorful scales, which proves difficult between the frequent rain and abundant fountains in their quaint seaside town. Will they win the race? Will they be discovered? Those questions move the story along, but the best part of the film is the sweet love between friends who truly want each other to succeed and prosper in everything they do, even if it means saying goodbye to a friend for a time.
Luca’s vivid imagination adds an element of “Over the Moon”-like fantasy to the best animated water in Disney history and the brotherly love element of the story will please the “Onward” crowd. Retro Italian music and a Pippi style spunky character add to the Felini flavor and script inspired by director Enrico Casarosa’s own fond memories of Italian boyhood summers (though from the 1980s).
Sadly, he also wanted legendary Italian film composer Ennio Morricone to score this film because he was a huge fan of his music, as am I, but Morricone died before Casarosa could ask him, so he settled for dedicating the film to his memory. Nevertheless, it is clear this film was lovingly created from great memories and will create some for you too.