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Movie Review: Luca (Pixar)

Ciao a tutti! I've been excited about Luca since I first saw the trailer months ago. An animated movie that was set in the Italian Riviera, one of the most jaw-dropping and awe-inspiring places in Italy? Count me in! I was so excited for the country to be reimagined through the lens of Pixar.

I had the chance to watch it today and let me just say, it totally lived up to my expectations.

Here's a quick description of the plot from Google:

Set in a beautiful seaside town on the Italian Riviera, the original animated feature is a coming-of-age story about one young boy experiencing an unforgettable summer filled with gelato, pasta and endless scooter rides. Luca shares these adventures with his newfound best friend, but all the fun is threatened by a deeply-held secret: he is a sea monster from another world just below the water's surface.

The story was light and fun, and it had all of the charm and tenderness you're likely to find in any Pixar movie. Plus, it included some more important themes - like the importance of family, friendship and loyalty. There was a part where the parents had to let their child go so that they could find happiness. There were parts about being free and learning to be yourself. Someone was pulling at my heart strings, that's for sure!

But, even though I enjoyed it, I found myself watching with more of a critical eye than usual. It's kind of difficult to watch a movie when you've set the bar of expectation so high. Taking a more analytical approach, here's a basic list of pros and cons.


It goes without saying when it comes to Pixar, but the animation was sensational. The movie made you think you were actually in Italy, perhaps Portofino (the town in the movie, Portorosso, is fictional, so I'm sure this was the primary influence) - everything down to the texture of the cobblestones, to the stylistic way they got the street signs right. The colors came to life, just like they actually do in tons of Italian coastal towns.

One fear I had was that they weren't going to infuse enough of the Italian language into the dialogue. I'm sure that's a tricky job when you don't overwhelm small children with a language they don't understand. My love of the Italian language goes beyond words, but I believe it is the most accurate way to truly get a sense of the people and pace there. I shouldn't have been afraid - I counted more than 60 Italian words and phrases while watching (and I'm sure I didn't get all of them). For those who are interested in learning Italian as a result of watching, here is a full and chronological account of words and phrases used in the movie:

Non preoccuparti: don't worry!

[Mrs.] Aragosta: lobster

Principessa: princess

Piacere: it's nice/a pleasure to meet you

Girolamo Trombetta: Jerome Trombone (there's a great article about it here)

Stupido: stupid (but I'm sure you could figure that one out on your own!)

Silenzio: silence!

Mannaggia: darn!

Mamma mia: (literally) "my mother," typically a way to express annoyance, fatigue or fear.

Ciao: hi

Basta: enough

Piccolina: little one

Benvenuti a Portorosso: welcome to Portorosso

Pescheria: fishmonger

Maggiore: Superior

'Sto imbecille: That idiot

Perfetto: perfect

Grazie: Thank you

Soldi: money

Arrivederci: goodbye

Aspetta: wait!

Siete un disastro: You are a disaster

Ragazzi: boys or kids

Bravo / bravissimo: good boy / really good boy

Hai visto il giornale?: did you see the newspaper?

Papà: Dad

Per favore: please Mi dispiace: I'm sorry

Buonanotte: goodnight

Buongiorno: Hello or good morning

Ma, no: but, no

Signora: Mrs.

Che bello: how beautiful

Piccoletto: little guy

Cioccolata: hot chocolate; not to be confused with cioccolato, "chocolate"

Finiti: finished

Pronti, a posti, via: ready, set, go!

Forchetta: fork

Forza: [strength], come on!

Sei scemo: You're silly

Sei matta: You're crazy

La palla: the ball

Prendila: take it!

Andiamo: let's go

Mamma: mother

Ma, che fai?: Hey, what are you doing?

Idioti: idiots

Signore e signori: ladies & gentlemen

Per mille cavoli: (literally) for a thousand cabbages. This one I couldn't figure out! :)

Più veloce: faster

Scusa: excuse me

Impossibile: impossible

Arbito!: referee!

Via: get out of the way

Cosa pensi?: what do you think?

Mangiate: eat

Sí: yes

A presto: see you soon

Additionally, there were a handful of occasions where an Italian character said "Santo" or "Santa" in combination with a type of cheese. As far as I know, there aren't real saints for cheese (and that's only as far as I know!), but these were used in moments of exasperation:

Santa mozzarella!

Santo pecorino!

Santa ricotta!

Santo gorgonzola!


There is only one thing that bothered me, and that is this: There were many parts of the storyline that were too similar to The Little Mermaid. The yearning to be above water and experience the human world (and how forbidden it is). The wobbly way Luca learns how to walk on two legs. Not knowing how to use a fork properly. The tower where Alberto keeps his human treasures is way too obvious of a nod to Ariel's Secret Grotto. The fact that the film is brand-new was a wonderful opportunity to make Luca stand on its own and not borrow from another Disney film in so many ways, but it did. It turns out I'm not alone in this opinion; someone has already made a video of the 20 Times Luca Copied The Little Mermaid.

All in all, this movie is perfectly timed for summer consumption, and one that the whole family will thoroughly enjoy. Even if people aren't completely back to traveling the way they did pre-COVID, escaping to the Italian Riviera through this film is a great alternative option.

Watch the trailer here, and if you've watched the movie, please share your thoughts in the comments!


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