News

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.

On an Apple device? Follow Rotten Tomatoes on Apple News.

Tag Cloud

TCA 2017 Fox Searchlight kids Travel Channel Extras reboot Winners BBC America TLC HBO Max Tubi zero dark thirty Elton John Comics on TV TNT Image Comics green book Polls and Games MSNBC Spring TV politics video comic Paramount Network Lifetime foreign Awards Tour Masterpiece 4/20 sequel ghosts 24 frames lord of the rings FX on Hulu YouTube archives Watching Series Anna Paquin streaming cancelled transformers Paramount Plus VOD crime drama canceled nfl Black Mirror thriller Nominations spanish ID ABC Trailer Walt Disney Pictures heist movie Toys Apple TV+ jurassic park anime Logo Academy Awards witnail news spanish language SundanceTV Superheroe stop motion Schedule universal monsters ABC Signature serial killer Lionsgate festivals rt archives slashers Thanksgiving Country Adult Swim Oscars Funimation south america President DirecTV scorecard golden globe awards Cartoon Network 21st Century Fox name the review TV One Broadway science fiction MTV Tumblr scene in color NBA Tokyo Olympics Sundance new star wars movies Mary Tyler Moore dc San Diego Comic-Con Disney Channel Reality indiana jones Infographic BAFTA Pirates fast and furious romance richard e. Grant japan comedies SXSW PBS YA revenge mockumentary Binge Guide emmy awards History PaleyFest ViacomCBS Music TruTV telelvision OneApp zombies Classic Film Mystery chucky godzilla dragons football BET Awards Epix Amazon Prime Video psycho women PlayStation Freeform Spike ratings die hard romantic comedy Universal Britbox best stand-up comedy HBO Best and Worst ESPN toronto The Witch El Rey FOX Wes Anderson versus social media reviews Marvel venice Pet Sematary Amazon Super Bowl a nightmare on elm street Mindy Kaling Rocketman Amazon Studios Crunchyroll nbcuniversal Chilling Adventures of Sabrina American Society of Cinematographers GoT monster movies 93rd Oscars Acorn TV Marathons indie FX series Drama USA Network First Reviews free movies marvel cinematic universe italian BBC Sci-Fi prank LGBTQ latino Set visit NBC adenture laika rom-coms ABC Family japanese Netflix Christmas movies biography Horror sports Song of Ice and Fire Vudu franchise Turner Classic Movies obituary deadpool Rocky boxoffice dogs Brie Larson scary movies Netflix Peacock natural history spain The Arrangement Paramount Certified Fresh miniseries australia mutant See It Skip It docuseries hispanic Spectrum Originals golden globes Showtime crime thriller USA Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Year in Review CMT The Walt Disney Company CNN The Walking Dead Opinion stoner justice league Reality Competition CBS All Access GIFs james bond Interview cancelled TV series Disney streaming service concert Lucasfilm Hear Us Out documentaries Legendary DC Comics Black History Month Comedy spider-man screenings Shudder MCU RT21 Summer joker Discovery Channel Tarantino french Sundance Now National Geographic game of thrones Apple TV Plus diversity IFC Pride Month Arrowverse Grammys First Look know your critic X-Men A&E harry potter 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards CW Seed The CW Food Network parents 72 Emmy Awards Comic Book Warner Bros. RT History facebook Teen Quiz cars boxing strong female leads BET Podcast Stephen King quibi war kaiju high school Star Trek Premiere Dates Photos VH1 Trophy Talk 2018 elevated horror 1990s Sneak Peek Disney Plus docudrama FXX Biopics finale Television Academy dramedy New York Comic Con worst TV renewals renewed TV shows hollywood Animation Disney 99% Amazon Prime blaxploitation all-time Creative Arts Emmys cops Chernobyl asian-american 2019 Star Wars E! Television Critics Association police drama animated Rom-Com toy story E3 Musical political drama Mudbound Holidays dark halloween tv Rock TV movies fresh Pop TV OWN Emmy Nominations space TIFF adaptation Nat Geo casting screen actors guild aapi 2021 IFC Films canceled TV shows basketball zombie Esquire Nickelodeon BBC One game show pirates of the caribbean movie blockbusters theme song remakes SDCC Columbia Pictures child's play crime book adaptation Countdown Musicals 2015 Captain marvel twilight discovery Box Office medical drama unscripted Marvel Studios DC streaming service Pop Starz streaming movies comics cats Disney+ Disney Plus Comedy Central halloween breaking bad documentary 45 Endgame Dark Horse Comics Hallmark classics Superheroes Fantasy cancelled television crossover werewolf singing competition historical drama 2016 aliens Emmys target international binge Kids & Family DC Universe disaster 2020 vampires movies Action adventure Martial Arts Trivia Film Festival 71st Emmy Awards Baby Yoda supernatural A24 rotten movies we love cartoon Lifetime Christmas movies Shondaland period drama based on movie APB Apple Exclusive Video 007 20th Century Fox book hist worst movies Pacific Islander ITV kong psychological thriller what to watch TCA Awards Video Games olympics Family Mary poppins Fox News Crackle Ovation Film nature razzies DGA superhero TCA Winter 2020 batman rotten criterion festival cancelled TV shows television 90s WGN trailers tv talk popular christmas movies teaser mission: impossible TCM award winner anthology Holiday Valentine's Day new york Turner VICE NYCC talk show comic books TBS king kong independent The Academy Marvel Television Comic-Con@Home 2021 children's TV technology Character Guide The Purge TV Land sitcom Heroines Red Carpet cooking Hulu Alien Mary Poppins Returns Hallmark Christmas movies doctor who superman cinemax Ghostbusters Sony Pictures sag awards YouTube Premium robots travel Cannes TCA new zealand saw films WarnerMedia Ellie Kemper YouTube Red Pixar AMC critics Christmas hidden camera directors Fall TV Election Cosplay Avengers HBO Go suspense Writers Guild of America Bravo Awards spy thriller sequels true crime blockbuster satire video on demand comiccon Tomatazos composers CBS Women's History Month GLAAD black Calendar jamie lee curtis Syfy TV 2017 live action Winter TV dceu legend Western LGBT spinoff Sundance TV cults