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Luca First Reviews: Decidedly Small-Scale Pixar, but a Triumph Nonetheless

Critics say Pixar's latest plays it safer than usual, but it still boasts the spectacular visuals, moving story, and important themes we've come to expect.

by | June 16, 2021 | Comments

Pixar is such a quality brand that even its “lesser” products prove to be essential for fans of their animated output. The studio’s latest feature, Luca, is arguably on that lower tier, according to critics — not among Pixar’s best but still better than most alternatives — hence the high Tomatometer score we’ve come to expect, even if there isn’t quite as much of the excitement we usually find in the reviews themselves. Some critics think that it’s too basic, while others believe its lack of complexity is a good thing. And some critics trust that there’s more to the movie than what’s on the surface and it requires repeat viewings to properly appreciate it. Fortunately for anyone hoping to find out, Luca can be watched over and over on Disney+ starting this Friday, June 18.

Here’s what critics are saying about Pixar’s Luca:


How does it compare to other Pixar movies?

Luca leans far lighter in tone and effect, but it’s no less memorable.
– Rob Hunter, Film School Rejects

Luca is easily Pixar’s most intimate and laidback effort since Ratatouille.
– Keith Watson, Slant Magazine

The last fifteen minutes of Luca might go down as one of the best endings Pixar has ever produced.
– Ryan McQuade, Awards Watch

This might be Pixar’s most childlike and cartoony offering.
– Brian Roan, The Film Stage

More of The Good Dinosaur or Onward level for me, Luca doesn’t quite reach the potential that I have grown to expect from Pixar.
– Christie Cronan, Raising Whasians

While some material may hit with younger audiences, Luca makes for Pixar’s least enchanting, least special film yet.
– Robert Daniels, RogerEbert.com


Luca

(Photo by Pixar)

Is it just a simpler Pixar movie than we’re used to?

Luca is nowhere near as complex or deep as other Pixar fare and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
Doug Jamieson, The Jam Report

All the more satisfying for its simplicity… the rare Pixar movie that doesn’t feel like it’s been thought to death.
David Ehrlich, IndieWire

It is rigorously unphilosophical in a way that proves to be its greatest strength.
Clarisse Loughrey, Independent

By going back to basics, we get a real connection with these characters.
Ryan McQuade, Awards Watch

Luca has the look and feel of a more disposable flick, but that’s just on the surface. Beneath, it has the beating heart of a classic family tale in the making.
Joey Magidson, Awards Radar

Luca never quite rises beyond being adorable — and hey, these days, adorable is fine —there’s something that just isn’t there.
Moira MacDonald, Seattle Times


How are the visuals?

The real magic of Luca is its visuals… The richness of the settings in both realms is a constant source of pleasure.
David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter

Looking like a hand-drawn fairy tale book come to animated life, Luca has a captivating visual style with every detail popping.
Richard Roeper, Chicago Sun-Times

The gorgeous animation of Luca… is unlike other Pixar movies you’ve seen.
Ian Sandwell, Digital Spy

It’s been a while since they’ve done anything visually distinct and felt vastly different from the rest of their fare. Thankfully, Luca is that breath of fresh air.
Rendy Jones, Rendy Reviews

Pixar’s Luca is proof once again that cartoon movies keep getting better and better with the technology.
Christie Cronan, Raising Whasians


Ryan Fujitani

Does it bring on the usual waterworks?

For much of this film, you’ll be thinking Luca will be one of the rare Pixar movies not to make you cry. But… [it] may just leave you in a puddle of tears.
Doug Jamieson, The Jam Report

Yeah, it’s cliched to say “I got misty-eyed in a Pixar movie,” but damn by the way they invest you with the friendship, it’s difficult not to find yourself feeling all warm and fuzzy.
Rendy Jones, Rendy Reviews

Happy tears at how lovely it all is, fortunately, we’re not talking Toy Story 3 or Inside Out trauma here.
Ian Sandwell, Digital Spy

I watched twice and no Inside Out or Up equivalent eye watering… Luca misses the Pixar emotional pull for me.
Christie Cronan, Raising Whasians


Are the characters memorable?

Giulia’s lovable father Massimo, who instantly goes into the all-time list for best animated dads.
Ian Sandwell, Digital Spy

A translucent anglerfish who Sacha Baron Cohen turns into one of Pixar’s funniest characters in less than two minutes of screen time.
David Ehrlich, IndieWire

As always, the Pixar magicians create a wonderfully populated world: I particularly enjoyed the cat character, who stares fixedly as only cats can.
Moira MacDonald, Seattle Times


Luca

(Photo by Pixar)

How is the screenplay?

With all of its wit and perfectly interwoven story threads and running gags, [the script] bears all the hallmarks of the best of Pixar’s story trust.
Brian Roan, The Film Stage

The script… like all the best Pixar movies, laces touching life lessons and delicate helpings of sentiment into what’s essentially a caper.
David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter

Why do another narrative about a girl stuck in the middle of two best friends?… The primary story flows through the motions.
Robert Daniels, RogerEbert.com

Unfortunately, there’s also an episodic, shaggy-dog quality to the plotting that undercuts Luca’s emotional beats.
Keith Watson, Slant Magazine


Are its themes up for interpretation?

This really is a metaphorical film. The sea monsters could be any of us who feel different. Maybe they’re a metaphor for the LGBTQ community.
Danielle Solzman, Solzy at the Movies

It’s the kind of metaphor that could be applied to a hundred different situations, but there’s an inherently queer subtext bubbling beneath the surface.
Doug Jamieson, The Jam Report

Very relatable for anyone who is within the LGBTQ+ community… [and also] works for a universal audience who may not identify as LGBTQ+ but can relate to someone who is.
Ryan McQuade, Awards Watch

[It] serves as a kind of all-purpose allegory, where audiences are free to narrow in on its queer subtext, its rebuke of xenophobia, or its triumph against any facet of small-mindedness.
Clarisse Loughrey, Independent

Its themes of coming-of-age resemble too much of Pixar’s existing catalog — and without a narrative that really makes these themes feel fresh.
Nicole Clark, IGN Movies

It never settles on exactly what it wants to say… It never makes a cohesive, powerful point.
Germain Lussier, io9.com


Who is Luca ultimately for?

While Disney and Pixar’s Luca is fun for the whole family, there are some very important messages for children laced throughout the film.
Tessa Smith, Mama’s Geeky

Luca is entertainment for all ages as its bright colors and fast-moving action will appeal to the kids while the humor and themes should speak to older viewers.
Rob Hunter, Film School Rejects

While there are a few moments that may be a little tense for younger kids… I recommend Pixar’s Luca for kids as young as 5-6 years old.
Christie Cronan, Raising Whasians


Will it remind us of any other films?

Luca is the closest that Pixar has ever come to capturing the ineffable spirit of a Studio Ghibli film.
David Ehrlich, IndieWire

The smooth, rounded character designs are something more akin to the stop-motion work of Aardman Animations.
Doug Jamieson, The Jam Report

There are obvious shades of The Little Mermaid in this fairy tale-like story… but Luca plays like a deliberate inversion of that Disney classic.
Keith Watson, Slant Magazine

Luca is The Little Mermaid without the heart, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs without the laughs.
Roger Moore, Movie Nation


Luca

(Photo by Pixar)

Is it rewatchable?

Expect to visit this destination more than once.
Rob Hunter, Film School Rejects

Since it’s so dense and layered, my guess is it’ll only improve, solidify and blossom with multiple viewings… I do want to watch it again.
Germain Lussier, io9.com

It’s also so fabulously summery that you shouldn’t be surprised if you return to it over and over for that sunny feeling.
Deirdre Molumby, entertainment.ie


Will Luca leave us hopeful for Pixar’s future?

Luca should be the model going forward for Pixar, with character driving entertaining stories instead of big concepts that fail to execute and leave you feeling hollow by the end (looking at you Soul).
Ryan McQuade, Awards Watch

[It] hopefully anticipates how the monolithic animation house will continue to create more intimate fare now that it can use Disney+ as a safety net.
David Ehrlich, IndieWire


Luca releases in theaters and streams on Disney+ on June 18, 2021.

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