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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Luca is Pixar's film about two sea creatures who leave their watery homes to discover the wonders of the surface in a small village on the Italian Riviera. It's a sweet coming-of-age story about courage, curiosity, and friendship -- specifically, that of Luca (voiced by Wonder's Jacob Tremblay) and Alberto (It's Jack Dylan Grazer). There's a bit of silly body humor (nose- and ear-picking) as well as occasional insults in both English and easily understandable Italian, like "trash," "stupido," "idioti," and "jerk." Physical comedy includes injuries from stunts like jumping off of cliffs and trees, riding a bike, and even getting in a tussle with another teen. Scared villagers wield spears and harpoons, and one even throws his at the main characters. Another character likes to use his big knife to chop up fish, much to Luca and Alberto's dismay. Parents and kids who watch together will be able to discuss the movie's appealing setting and its themes, particularly the importance of evaluating others for who they are, not because of their background or heritage.
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What's the story?
LUCA takes place at the Italian seaside, where the titular character is the son in a family of sea creatures. Luca (voiced by Jacob Tremblay) follows his parents' (Maya Rudolph and Jim Gaffigan) rules not to go near the dangerous surface, until he comes across a stranger collecting treasures. Luca follows the boy, Alberto (Jack Dylan Grazer), to the shore, where they both transform into humans. Luca and Alberto become fast friends, sharing dreams and plans that involve what Alberto claims is the best prize among humans: the Vespa scooter. When Luca's family catches on that he's been hanging out above water, they threaten to send him to the depths of the ocean with his angler-fish Uncle Ugo (Sacha Baron Cohen). Frightened, Luca and Alberto run away to the nearest human town, Porto Rosso, where they meet outgoing Giulia (Emma Berman), who informs them about the town's annual race: a triathlon involving swimming, cycling, and eating pasta. The boys team up with Giulia -- who's come in second several years in a row to an overconfident, rude villager named Ercule (Saverio Raimondo) -- and move in with her and her intimidating fisherman father (Marco Barricelli). They must also do everything they can to keep from getting wet, lest the sea-monster-fearing villagers try to spear them.
Is it any good?
This heartfelt, gorgeously animated adventure is a short and sweet reminder of sun-filled summer days with new friends. The setting is so vivid that audiences will want to book a flight to the Italian Rivera for some amazing pasta, clear seas, and the charm of winding cobblestone streets, marble fountains, and quirky townsfolk. Tremblay is a wonderfully expressive voice performer, making Luca's intellectual curiosity and general awe come to life. Grazer's Alberto is a confident and impetuous counterbalance to Luca's thoughtful and initially hesitant personality. Berman also impresses as Giulia, who really wants to win the race but is even more excited to make new friends. The supporting Italian cast is strong, as are Rudolph and Gaffigan, who at this point are almost default choices as funny parents. And audiences will laugh aloud at Baron Cohen's brief but hilarious role as Luca's uncle from the deep.
Luca's themes are reminiscent of those in Finding Nemo and Finding Dory, The Little Mermaid, and even Onward. The boys turn into friends who are more like brothers, discovering both the joys and the dangers of the human world, and their adventure is filled with memorable views under the sea. This isn't a tearjerker, and that's actually refreshing -- not every Pixar film needs to be an emotionally cathartic affair. This one is tender, sweet, and also funny, with silly physical comedy and an amusingly suspicious cat (Giulia's kitty looks just like her dad, right down to what looks like a mustache). It's also lovely to see a single father who belies his oversized appearance by cooking delicious meals, teaching the boys the skills needed to fish, and supporting his daughter in her dream to compete in Porto Rosso's big annual race. Families with kids of all ages will enjoy this adorable addition to Pixar's excellent list of films.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Luca's message about family and friendship. What does Luca learn about what makes a family? Kids: Who do you consider to be part of your family?
Discuss how the movie portrays Giulia's father's disability. How does it impact him? Why is it important to see people with disabilities represented in popular culture? Can you think of other examples?
Did you find any parts of the movie scary or upsetting? If so, why? What bothers you more: danger/action, or conflict between characters?
- On DVD or streaming: June 18, 2021
- Cast: Jacob Tremblay, Jack Dylan Grazer, Emma Berman
- Director: Enrico Casarosa
- Studios: Pixar Animation Studios, Walt Disney Pictures
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Friendship
- Character strengths: Curiosity, Empathy, Perseverance, Teamwork
- Run time: 95 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: rude humor, language, some thematic elements and brief violence
- Awards/Honors: Common Sense Selection
- Last updated: August 3, 2021
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