Why was The Reception to Pixar’s Luca So Lukewarm
As we sat down for lunch, I asked my brother what he thought about Luca. “The one with mermaids?” I am dumbfounded. He replies, “This isn’t The Little Mermaid. They are sea creatures.”
Ariel’s and Luca’s journeys are almost identical, despite the absence of a romantic plot in the former. Both characters live at sea and have families that believe the land above the sea is dangerous. Ariel and Luca ignore these warnings and travel to the land above the sea. Both decide to stay on land with the support of their families in the end. Why is one Disney animated film considered a Disney classic and the other a Pixar movie of lower quality?
Ariel takes on all the risks to make it from sea to land. However, she gets her legs, but it comes with a condition: she must get her true love’s kiss within three days without using her voice. Luca doesn’t have to negotiate for anything. He can show up on the land and do what he wants. He and Alberto have to deal with Ercole, who can be more irritating than dangerous, which is their main concern. The town is accepting of them even if they are caught, which is nice but unrealistic. However, there is not much conflict to bring the matter home.
There is little resistance when Luca’s curiosity leads him to choose to remain on the ground and attend school. His parents decided to send him to live in the deep ocean with his uncle, an angler fisherman. This was the main resistance. There is no conflict or pushback after that. The Little Mermaid is a different story. King Titan, who was persistently resistant to Ariel’s fascination with the land and even destroyed her precious collection, tells a completely different story. This resistance and the stakes are what make us root for Ariel.
While some will claim she is silly for falling in love with Prince Eric so quickly, it is clear that Eric is a great man. They are both brave and loyal and risk everything together. Even Titan, despite his immense power, was willing to sacrifice his power to save Ursula. Luca is nothing but a sad farewell between friends. It lacks the same permanence as Ariel’s farewell.
Apart from the great times Alberto and Luca shared, their friendship isn’t well-developed, and the film lacks the needed emotional intimacy. The viewer is left feeling nothing when Alberto chases Luca in the final scene. Giulia Luca is the strongest couple. The scenes in which they discuss science and stars help to establish their bond and connection. Despite the title Luca, Giulia is more like the protagonist. She has a goal and can overcome obstacles.
Pixar’s animation is a success because of the stunning visuals. But, more than that, the characters are so heartfelt. People will recall the most poignant moments from any Pixar movie: Up’s opening montage, Miguel singing “Remember Me” at Coco’s end, Andy’s realization that Woody would have to go with him to college, and Andy’s sad realization that Woody was not going to be there.
Luca is a cartoon-like character. I also appreciate the effort to put us in the Italian atmosphere. However, the setting doesn’t captivate the viewer the way Ratatouille did. We could sense Remy’s passion for food, and Paris was a city that was full of possibilities. Although I don’t know how to cook, watching Ratatouille inspired me to start baking again. One simple vegetable dish turned into a powerful symbol for so many things – one’s past and dreams, love and loss, as well as the taste of food. Luca eats the pasta in a frenzied fashion and fails to make a connection with the film.
Even Soul, although it doesn’t push the creation/afterlife concept nearly as strong as it should have, made me feel some. Every Pixar film contains beautiful messages about life, living, and death. Luca’s offer of curiosity and a vacation is not enough. Although it’s competent, it’s not memorable. Maybe I’ll remember it as a story about mermaids in a year.