LUCA – A Review by Cynthia Flores

LUCA – A Review by Cynthia Flores

Pixar has a way with watery stories; remember 2003s Finding Nemo? Well, they have a new animated feature film based on sea monsters called Luca that will be this summer’s hit.

Luca tells a heartwarming story set in the late 1950s – early 1960s, capturing the magic and adventure of summertime. Telling the story of two thirteen-year-old sea monsters named Luca Paguro (Jacob Tremblay) and Alberto Scorfano (Jack Dylan Grazer). Together they experience a life-changing summer while learning about friendship and stepping out of their comfort zone.

Luca and his family live a peaceful life below the sea, avoiding and fearing humans who are eager to hunt them down to prove they exist. Luca’s mom Daniela Paguro (Maya Rudolph), and dad, Lorenzo Paguro (Jim Gaffigan), are determined to protect their little boy. Even if it means sending him to live in the dark, deep of the ocean with weird uncle Ugo (Sacha Baron Cohen). Only his loving Grandma (Sandy Martin) understands his fascination with the world above the sea. She also knows that sea monsters can dry off and appear as human beings. Able to roam the land where humans dwell.

Afraid of being sent to live with his uncle, Luca runs away to stay with his friend Alberto. He is the brave one and lives all alone on an island. Their friendship brings out the best in Luca and gives him the confidence to spread his wings and take more risks. Together the boys fall in love with the idea of riding a Real Vespa. So, they set off to explore the local small town across the bay. There, they are saved from the town bully Ercole Visconti (Saverio Raimondo) by Giulia Marcovaldo (Emma Berman). She only spends the summers in town with her father, who is a local. So she, too, is considered an “Outsider” like Luca and Alberto.

The three team up to train for a local marathon that arrogant Ercole has won six times in a row. Giulia’s fisherman dad Massimo Marcovaldo (Marco Barricelli), allows the boys to stay with them as they train for the race. Luca and Alberto embrace their new surroundings with one rule ever-present in their minds: stay dry. If they get rained on or splashed, their secret could be revealed.

I really loved the look and sound of this film. They use Italian songs for the soundtrack, which is fantastic. The whole town looks like it was painted by hand and washed out by years of baking in the sun. Also, the leads may be sea monsters, but they’re not drawn to be scary. In fact, to create the look of Luca and his family, artists studied medieval depictions of sea monsters that appeared in the Carta Marina. That is a Renaissance map dating back to 1539. They also studied sea-monster sculptures throughout Italy that are seen on fountains and benches and even mosaicked on the ground. The animation team that took care of the movement of the sea monsters based it on reference footage of salt-water iguanas. They looked at how their tails move when they swim. Iguanas use their tails in a left-right pattern, not up and down like dolphins, and their arms and legs drag behind while they swim. All of this attention to detail results in a magical experience for the audience as they lose themselves in the story.

The core of this fun film is all about friendships. It cleverly shows us how our friends can unlock different parts of us. Luca’s director, Enrico Casarosa, grew up in Genoa, Italy, a port city on the Italian Riviera. He is quoted as saying: “I love the sense that all of our characters in some way feel different or unusual. For example, Luca and Alberto so passionately want to be part of this other world—but they fear they won’t be accepted as they are. And yet, they love being sea monsters.” He goes on to say, “This movie is about the friendships that change us. It’s a love letter to the summers of our youth. Those formative years when you’re finding yourself.”   

I give Luca a 5-star rating. It’s a great way to spend some time with your own friends and family. And don’t forget to wait past the credits for a funny coda.


Directed by: Enrico Casarosa

Written by: Jesse Andrews, Mike Jones

Rated: PG

Running Time: 1h 35min

Animation/ Comedy/ Adventure

Theatrical Release: Exclusively on Disney+ June 18th

Starring: Jacob Tremblay, Jack Dylan Grazer, Sacha Baron Cohen, Maya Rudolph, Emma Berman


The Selig Rating Scale:

5 Stars – Excellent movie, well worth the price.

4 Stars – Good movie

3 Stars – OK movie

2 Stars – No need to rush. Save it for a rainy day.

1 Star – Good that I saw it on the big screen but wish I hadn’t paid for it.

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