Review: Luca

Score: B

Director: Enrico Casarosa

Cast: Jacob Tremblay, Jack Dylan Grazer, Emma Berman, Saverio Raimondo

Running Time: 96 Minutes

Rated: PG

Luca is a totally pleasant summer movie, but it's nothing more. As expected, the visuals are gorgeous, the message is inspiring and the voice work is exceptional. But there's very little emotional impact, especially compared with recent tear-jerkers like Coco, Onward and Soul.

Jacob Tremblay, possibly the best child actor working today, voices the titular sea monster. Like Ariel in The Little Mermaid, he longs to be where the people are, above the surface. When exploring in the sea, he follows a fellow sea monster to a beach, who transforms into the self-assured Alberto (Jack Dylan Grazer). After his anxious mom (Maya Rudolph) hears about his trip, she threatens to send him further into the ocean to live with his uncle. And so, like many pint-sized heroes before him, he runs away from home.

On their own, Luca and Alberto become fast friends, bonding over their mutual love for tinkering and stunts. But a rift forms when local human Giulia (Emma Berman) joins their group. Together, they plan to complete in the Porto Rosso Cup. It's an Italian triathlon: swimming, biking and eating pasta. (That got a big laugh out of me.) These scenes are the strongest in the film, as Luca and Alberto's ideas about the future diverge, and they're constantly trying to hide their true identities to blend into the town, all the while training for the big race.

Based solely on trailers, the film earned a lot of comparisons to the more adult Call Me by Your Name, given its Italian summer setting and male leads. But it's actually much closer to 1979's Breaking Away. Set in Indiana, four boys compete in a grueling bike race against local snobs and international athletes. It remains one of the best films about sports and childhood friendship. Luca suffers in comparison to both Best Picture nominees.

While the climax, where our trio face off against local bully Ercole (Saverio Raimondo), is thrilling, the film really only has one direction to go. Its final lines are moving, but it doesn't quite feel earned. Luca is like a brief beach trip: Enjoyable enough for an afternoon, but not especially memorable.

*This film is streaming globally on Disney+.


About Kip Mooney

Kip Mooney
Like many film critics born during and after the 1980s, my hero is Roger Ebert. The man was already the best critic in the nation when he won the Pulitzer in 1975, but his indomitable spirit during and after his recent battle with cancer keeps me coming back to read not only his reviews but his insightful commentary on the everyday. But enough about a guy you know a lot about. I knew I was going to be a film critic—some would say a snob—in middle school, when I had to voraciously defend my position that The Royal Tenenbaums was only a million times better than Adam Sandler’s remake of Mr. Deeds. From then on, I would seek out Wes Anderson’s films and avoid Sandler’s like the plague. Still, I like to think of myself as a populist, and I’ll be just as likely to see the next superhero movie as the next Sundance sensation. The thing I most deplore in a movie is laziness. I’d much rather see movies with big ambitions try and fail than movies with no ambitions succeed at simply existing. I’m also a big advocate of fun-bad movies like The Room and most of Nicolas Cage’s work. In the past, I’ve written for The Dallas Morning News and the North Texas Daily, which I edited for a semester. I also contributed to Dallas-based Pegasus News, which in the circle of life, is now part of The Dallas Morning News, where I got my big break in 2007. Eventually, I’d love to write and talk about film full-time, but until that’s a viable career option, I work as an auditor for Wells Fargo. I hope to one day meet my hero, go to the Toronto International Film Festival, and compete on Jeopardy. Until then, I’m excited to share my love of film with you.