PG almost exclusively for the villain. I suppose that you could find the undersea creatures to be a little unsightly. True story, I watched Jaws the night before a swim test growing up and got irrationally afraid that there was a shark in the pool while swimming. If that same button gets you, I suppose you could get scared. But there is the fear that these two will be hunted at different points in the movie. But the villain is the real bad guy. He's one of those arch-villains who might actually kill for arbitrary reasons. The movie even stresses that he's super evil with a silhouette against lightning. PG.
DIRECTOR: Enrico Casarosa
Geez, Pixar. When you completely knock it out of the park, you leave me wrecked. There was a time where I thought that Pixar could do no wrong. I was one of the people who liked A Bug's Life at the time. I completely skipped Cars, so part of that is on me. But ever since Brave was only okay, I've looked at Pixar as this hit or miss studio. I mean, aesthetically, these movies are always impressive. But in terms of story and characterization, you have to go into these movies one at a time. But Luca, like the best of Pixar, is pretty phenomenal. The weird thing is that the movie is great, despite the fact that it is mostly derivative of other Disney stuff.
My kneejerk reaction is the fact that, because it is a movie about leaving the sea, I'm instantly making comparisons to The Little Mermaid and Finding Nemo. But that comparison isn't completely unfounded. There was a scene where Luca, as a sea monster, was just inching towards the surface, afraid to make that choice to break the film of the wave to become human. And in that moment, I just had "Part of Your World" blaring in my head. I may or may not have sung it out loud when that happened, so decide what the truth is for yourself. And, because I'm shooting for objectivity with this blog, it really has nothing new in terms of story. This story is just riding the archetype and trope train all the way through the story. But I think I know why the movie works over all, besides the aesthetic and character dynamics.
Luca is one of those rare kids' movies that keeps the stakes criminally small. Luca, from his perspective, has two eventual conclusions to his narrative. He could return to the sea and live a life with his gross Uncle Ugo or he could win a Vespa. I mean, there's the many variations of those two results. He could lose the race. He could get discovered. But really, Luca and Alberto are risking life and limb for the sake of personal greatness. They would be winning a local award and humiliating a bully. That's it. The big villain is someone who really can't grow a good moustache and keeps cheating at a child's competition. There's no kingdom to save. There's no end of the world. It's just two kids who want to win a bad Vespa so they can continue experiencing life.
And that's where the Finding Nemo comparison happens. I don't know why we have the fish connection to the idea of running away from home. Nemo believes that his life is meant to be something greater than the reef that he's been stuck on. I guess the same thing happens in Tangled. But Luca kind of makes running away super attractive. When Nemo runs away, it kind of gets bleak. It seems like the world of Nemo kind of punishes him for wanting to leave. The lesson that Marlin learns is that his son can survive in the big bad world. But Luca has a bit of a different lesson. He runs away from home and, not only does he run away, but he thrives.
The aesthetics of the film kind of support this. My wife's family is obsessed with Italy. I'm not saying that in a way that makes it seem like I don't like Italy. I do. It's just that my wife's Italian family gets obsessed with Italy in a very palpable way. We were supposed to go to Italy before Covid destroyed the planet. But there's the Italy of today and then there's the Italy of Luca. Don't get me wrong. These worlds are very close. But this is the Italy of Rome, Open City and Paisan. There's something remarkably Old World about the Italy of Luca. So when Luca leaves the sea, he's going to this idealized society. Yet, I find Luca to be both a damnation of society and a celebration of society. The town of Portorosso fears sea monsters. There's this fear that seems pretty unfounded. It was one of those urban legends that ended up being right.
But then the villagers change their feelings about the sea creatures. And we're supposed to support that idea. But I was doing the math. The look of Portorosso really implies that this movie is post WWII. The poster and the rusted Vespa. The fact that there is no cell phone anywhere in this film. It just screams that this is the Italy of a formerly fascist Italy. So when Ercole exposes the boys as sea monsters, it's kind of bizarre that the entire town embraces the boys as members of the community. Now, this is a Disney film. I want that to be the world that we live in. God, I want that to be the world that we live in. And I kind of can lie to myself that humanity is good and can support this kind of ending of the film. So when the town supports these boys, I can plausibly deny the reality of a post-fascist Italy. But then there should be two people who should totally be on Ercole's team: his two little henchmen.
The reason that I'm obsessed with this is that Ercole was trying to kill the boys...when he thought that they were human. And the boys were completely cool with the absolutely vicious brutality that is typical of films like The 400 Blows. So when Luca and Alberto are exposed to the truth, it's bizarre that the boys decide to turn on Ercole in this moment. Maybe it is the freedom that comes from the entire town voicing their support at once. It's just an overly happy ending, but that's okay to me.
Geez, I really liked this movie. I don't even care that I feel like I've seen this movie before. I love the dynamic between Luca and Giullia. I love the idea that a third of the big competition involves eating pasta. It's just a super fun movie that is full of wonder and potential. It's a great time and I had such a good time with this movie. I'm sure that I'm probably going to be in the minority when time judges this movie. But I encourage people to go in with a sense of beauty and wonder because it ticks all those buttons quite nicely.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.