For those who loved the short film Pixar of Enrico Casarosa, The moon (nominated for the Oscar for the best animated short in 2012) the passage of the Ligurian director to the feature film with Luca was long overdue, and today we offer you our review. The animated film will be available from June 18 on Disney +. Through this coming-of-age story inspired by old Ligurian legends, Casarosa recalls his youth and carefree summers on the Riviera, but above all the very strong friendship with his best friend Alberto. Halfway between The little Mermaid (1988) and Stand by me (1986), Luca tells the story of a couple of sea monsters, Luca and Alberto, fascinated by the world on the surface in the Italy of the economic boom that they dream of seeing aboard a Vespa, which they consider to be a magical means of transport capable of taking them anywhere.
Challenging their people’s fears, the two mingle among the population of Portorosso (a fictional village clearly inspired by towns of the Five lands like Monterosso and Vernazza) and make friends with the exuberant Giulia, a girl from Genoa who spends summers in the village with her fisher father Massimo and the gruff cat Machiavelli.
Every summer it is held there Portorosso Cup, a kind of triathlon for children regularly won by the country’s insufferable bully Hercules. Giulia is determined to win to teach the bully a lesson, while Luca and Alberto want to use the prize money to buy an old one Wasp battered that they will use to see the world. The trio will join forces to win and the experience will make the summer unforgettable.
In a kind of Amarcord of animation, Luca pays homage to the films of Fellini, Visconti (The earth trembles) and Rossellini (Stromboli) with an aesthetic close to the works of the first Miyazaki (The Adventures of Lupine III is Sherlock Holmes’ nose) with its round and soft lines, giving space in the (rich) Pixar animation repertoire to an all-Italian story. Director Casarosa reconstructs perfectly the setting of the Ligurian Riviera with great attention to light and ai colors of the territory, as well as a faithful reconstruction of the beautiful and picturesque villages that make up the coast.
But the desire to introduce to the little ones and to the world the settings, the music and the flavors of Italy to the maximum of its economic and social well-being (the 50s and 60s of Boom) turns out to be a double-edged sword because it stifles a story with a discreet potential and great originality that would have benefited from greater attention.
The impression in fact, looking Luca, is that the trend of certain movies to play on an Italian imaginary made of popular music, good food and unique beauty to please a foreign audience (such as Call me by your name by Luca Guadagnino or older films such as I dance alone by Bernardo Bertolucci) comes in this case a little exasperated. That said, Enrico Casarosa’s first feature film for Pixar is certainly not a stumbling block or a disastrous debut, quite the contrary.
In the most original moments the film reveals that potential and that enchanting imagery that we had the opportunity to admire in it The moon and the relationship of deep friendship that unites the two young protagonists hits the heart in the best possible ways for its realism since, as we said in the review, in Luca the relationship between the director and his best friend Alberto, whom he met at the age of eleven in one of the many summers spent on the Ligurian Riviera, is reconstructed.
Furthermore, Luca it has the peculiarity of being a particular film within Pixar also because it explores the difficult moment of growth that lies between childhood and adolescence. And Casarosa confirms this reflection:
I realized at Pixar we hadn’t yet made a movie about kids making kids, a Stand by me story so to speak, and that was part of the decision to make this story. In addition, I wanted to tell about the pre-falling in love age, the one in which we don’t think about love yet, about finding a boyfriend or girlfriend but everything is still focused only on friendship. These are the things I wanted to see on screen.
The problem, however, is that all this potential ends up a bit of a secondary level, limiting Luca to a pleasant tourist film that counts among the least powerful films of Pixar, which is not a particularly bad thing considering that it counts in his repertoire numerous masterpieces of world animation, also present on Disney +.