We are on a run of Disney movies over the last three weeks.
Following up reviews of "Raya and the Last Dragon" and "Cruella," the most anticipated of the three is next. "Luca is Pixar's latest project. And, despite being a bit underwhelming, it hits home on an important message.
"Luca" is the story of a sea monster who turns into a human when he exits the water. Curious about what's above the surface, he meets a creature similar to himself named Alberto. Luca and Alberto venture off to a nearby city where they run into a girl named Giulia, who has her sights set on winning the town race.
Luca, voiced by Jacob Tremblay, struggles in dealing with the pressures of society and his parents about how the human world will accept him. As he and Alberto try to keep their true identities secret on land, the struggles of hiding who they are become more prevalent as they train for the big race.
There's no secret Pixar makes movies with deeper meanings. I can't remember if there is an animated feature without an underlying metaphor. "Luca" isn't an exception to that premise, but it took a different approach.
When the credits rolled, I immediately thought the purpose of the movie was an allegory for sexuality. The parallels are right there in front of you. Being a sea monster resembles being in the LGBTQ+ community while hiding in plain sight as a human.
There are so many one-liners throughout the movie that point to this theory being valid. Luca's mother said in the film that there will always be people in society who won't accept him. If that isn't an LGBTQ+ metaphor, then I completely missed the point.
The similarities between "Luca" and another LGBTQ+ movie, "Call Me By Your Name" are uncanny. "Call Me By Your Name" was nominated for best picture in 2018, and "Luca" will likely get some best animated movie votes as well.
There is a big problem with the approach "Luca" took. It's noncommittal to being an LGBTQ+ movie. We have to remember that this is a movie for children, and the same message can be taught to all kids. Be yourself because you are perfect. I didn't take points off my movie score for this, but I thought this would've been an excellent chance for Disney to plant a firm flag in the sand.
Where "Luca" fails is its lack of depth in the plot. We have no choice to compare it to the previous films Pixar produced before this, and it was clear there wasn't a ton of story to go along with the message.
Pixar has made animated shorts for the better part of four decades, and this felt like it could've been one of those projects. "Luca" used the race as a plot device to carry the story instead of world-building the life of the sea monsters. I thought that was a big swing and a miss considering Pixar crushes world-building better than anybody.
Pixar and Marvel are very similar. Neither will make a bad movie anymore. They have the formula. It's tried and true, and they get the job done. But in the grand scheme of Pixar's catalog, I think "Luca" is on the lower end.
That being said, lower-end Pixar movies are still a dang good time. They still can hit you in the heartstrings and invoke a powerful message. I just wish they would've swung a little harder with this one. I give "Luca" an 80/100. It's only streaming on Disney+.