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Luca – Review | Pixar’s under-the-radar queer film

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Disney Studios have been promising for years to be more LGBTQ+ inclusive with their content. But their so called, ahem, “attempts” at showing queer representation in their live action films and TV shows have been mostly shallow tokenism at best. Even the recent Cruella we were promised that John McCrea’s fashion-enthusiast character Artie was to be Disney’s legitimately first out-and-proud gay character. And yet, the final product did nothing to confirm this. This was Disney once again pandering to the queer audience without actually taking any risk.

However one faction of Disney Studios; Pixar does seem to making a more visible effort to tell LGBTQ+ stories. With the heart-warming short Out and even having Lena Waithe voice a lesbian cyclops in one of the more recent features Onward as recent examples. Granted these are just minor baby steps but it’s notable progress nonetheless. But Luca, Pixar’s 24th feature film – a breezy coming-of-age story of friendship, might just be the closest thing we’ve had to a gay Pixar feature film.


No it’s not in any way a confirmed, out-and-proud, self-identifying gay film. There’s no gay characters (so to speak) but it’s deceptively LGBTQ+ in tone and message. In short, there’s no pandering here. It’s not pretending to be inclusively gay, rather its queer coded enough to strike a chord with anybody LGBTQ+ and have it resonate with them on a subtextual level.

With a plot not too dissimilar to The Little Mermaid (which incidnetly is getting a Disney live action remake this year), Luca tells the story of a curious young sea creature named Luca (voiced by Jacob Tremblay), who after encountering some human gadgets and gizmos aplenty, longs to venture up to the surface to see what lies above the water. Much to the dismay of his human-fearing parents (Maya Rudolph and Jim Gaffigan), Luca follows fellow sea-dweller and pal Alberto (Jack Dylan Grazer) up to the shore to discover that his fishy-body adapts to the surface by transforming into human form when out of water. From then on its frolicking childhood adventure in the gorgeous coastal town of Portorosso, partaking in a triathlon with a local girl named Giulia (Emma Berman) in order to make their dreams of owning their own Vespa a thing of reality.

It’s a sickeningly cute story about the kids who feel like outsiders, weirdos or underdogs finding their tribe and coming into their own. But that’s not the only way to interpret Luca. Director Enrico Casarosa has publicly stated that there was no intention of any gay subtext but there’s no denying to the queer-eyed observer that it’s there.

I’m sure I can anticipate some backlash for even suggesting there was anything remotely hinting at homosexuality in this sweet innocent Pixar film. Well regardless, people see what we wanna see. And for the queer community seeing a thinly veiled story about 2 boys “coming out” of the hostile environment of the Ocean to live their true authentic lives on land means a great deal to us. As a child of the 90’s I didn’t have any animated films like this but it would’ve certainly meant a lot for me to have film like this going through adolescence. The little queer boy that I was would’ve deeply resonated with Luca.

But regardless of the subtext Luca is still a very easy-to-love film. It’s hard not to enjoy a story about 3 scrappy kids who are self-proclaimed “under-dogs” enjoying the frivolities of youth. The animation is gorgeous. The setting of Portorosso looks warm and inviting. The little details are impeccable; from the individual scales on the sea creatures, to each individual pebble on the shore to the freckles on the kids faces – it’s all exquisitely detailed.

Luca certainly has the goods but what lets it down comparatively to its Pixar brothers and sisters is how conventional and safe the plot is. It’s a grass-is-greener coming-of-age story – it’s hardly anything new.

Ironically Casarosa publicly stating that Luca wasn’t in any way a queer film completely negates his own films bravest and most talk-worthy attribute. If he’d simply allowed some wiggle room for interpretation then would Luca perhaps be more critically revered and feature higher in the rankings? He would undoubtedly be idolised for being the director to make Pixar’s first gay feature. But simultaneously, he would also be hated by those too narrow-minded to see the beauty in this lovely story.

Who know’s maybe Casarosa himself might change his tune when young queer kids tell him how his charming Pixar film helped them come to terms with who they are. But for now the masses will read Luca as an enjoyable albeit by-the-numbers family film about friendship, dreams, education and discovery. And there’s nothing wrong with that – it’s just not breaking any new ground is all.

The parental subplot which sees Luca’s parents Daniela and Lorenzo venture up to the surface to bring their son back home also lacks emotional payoff. We’ve already seen previous Pixar films tackle the subject of parents learning to let go of their kids done with way more skill and panache in Finding Nemo. Here there is no personal journey of self-discovery for Daniela or Lorenzo. They don’t learn anything about themselves like Marlon the Clownfish did. Instead all they do when they’re on land is throw water at kids to try and spot Luca. So when they arrive at their final destination of acceptance and understanding for Luca at the end of the film – it doesn’t feel earned. It feels like an after thought.

And as far as the tone of this film goes. Luca is unquestionably more of a kids film than one custom-made for the parents to click with. Remember the criticisms that Soul was too existential for kids to enjoy? Well Luca is the exact opposite of Soul – it’s merely a carefree and conventional kids film. Adults will certainly still be able to enjoy it but it’s not going to offer anything profoundly insightful like Toy Story 4, Inside Out or Coco did. Unless you’re LGBTQ+ but I digress.

But regardless of the simplicity of Luca’s narrative it is still a thoroughly enjoyable movie. It ticks many of the Pixar boxes; humour, heart and a lovely message – albeit a familiar one. There’s nothing outright bad about Luca, it’s just the standard for Pixar is set so high that in comparison it does feel a bit safe and therefore a little average.

★★★☆☆

Luca is available worldwide to stream on Disney + now.

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Deadpool & Wolverine | Official Teaser

The irresponsible hero Deadpool will change the history of the MCU with Wolverine!?

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Genre:

Action, Comedy, Sci-fi

Release Date:

July 26, 2024

Director:

Shawn Levy

Cast:

Ryan Reynolds, Hugh Jackman, Morena Baccarin

Plot Summary:

The irresponsible hero Deadpool will change the history of the MCU with Wolverine!?

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Disney

Snow White Will Be The Worst Live Action Disney Remake: Here’s Why

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It’s no surprise that Disney’s latest foray in the live-action space has come to remaking the animated classic Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Admittedly, the remakes are not inherently bad but this latest Marc Webb project may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Many of the remakes have been criticized for lacking the magic and charm of their animated counterparts. That may be true in some cases but Snow White seems like a remake to take the cake for that and the film hasn’t even been released. 

Not only does it seem that the film is going against the grain of what made the 1937 film so memorable, it decided to delay its release to 2025, which is usually not a good sign. 

Snow White isn’t a love story anymore

Rachel Zegler as Snow White

Rachel Zegler as Snow White

According to lead actress Rachel Zegler’s comments, “People are making these jokes about ours being the PC Snow White, where it’s like, yeah, it is—because it needed that. It’s an 86-year-old cartoon, and our version is a refreshing story about a young woman who has a function beyond “Someday My Prince Will Come“.

 

Having a character go beyond a love story is perfectly fine, but when filmmakers are remaking a classic tale that was largely based around the idea of romance and a strong love story, not making romance the focus of said remake will only lead to undercut what the 1937 film achieved. 

 

Zegler herself

Zegler

Zegler

It may not be Zegler’s fault that she was cast and is a larger problem that relies on Disney but the fact that the Mouse House cast a Columbian instead of a white actress when the movie is called “Snow White”, not “Off White”. 

 

Destroying the fabric and race of who Snow White is supposed to be almost makes it an insult to the character. She’s a great actress but this was not the vehicle for her.

 

Cast comments and director silence

Director Marc Webb

Director Marc Webb

Zegler has not done herself any favors by practically spitting on the legacy of the 1937 film and she and the filmmakers have decided to not only make a love story but also add (mostly) CGI dwarves instead of real actors. 

 

Moreover, director Marc Webb of “The Amazing Spider-Man” duology has been radio silent about the movie and apparently has been tapped to direct a Bermuda Triangle movie. That’s all probably because he knows that “Snow White” is going to suck. 

 

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Disney

Disney’s Latest Star “Wish”

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Ariana DeBose as Asha in Wish (Disney)

Plot

Walt Disney Animation Studios’ “Wish” is an all-new musical-comedy welcoming audiences to the magical kingdom of Rosas, where Asha, a sharp-witted idealist, makes a wish so powerful that it is answered by a cosmic force—a little ball of boundless energy called Star. Together, Asha and Star confront a most formidable foe—the ruler of Rosas, King Magnifico—to save her community and prove that when the will of one courageous human connects with the magic of the stars, wondrous things can happen.

Ariana Debose as Asha in Wish (Disney)

Movie Review (no spoilers)

The film is inspired by Disney’s centennial, which ties together a central theme across most of the Disney-related stories — of wishes and dreams coming true. One can view it as the origin story for the wishing star, albeit a funny star. Disney delivers a feel good story filled with humor and the occasional teases and links to other Disney-related works. Ariana DeBose braces the big screen as the hero, Asha who discovers a sinister secret about King Magnifico and his use of the wishes.

Ariana’s performance performance is amazing and I enjoyed listening to the songs she performed. I foresee “This Wish” topping the charts at Spotify soon.

This Wish by Ariana DeBose (Spotify)

Chris Pine plays the part of King Magnifico and delivers a good performance as the villain. We hear him sing a song alongside Ariana, At All Costs.

At All Costs by Chris Pine & Ariana DeBose (Spotify)

The story delivers the usual fun characters that Disney brings along in all stories, amazing graphics of a magical world, and an amazing song library for everyone to listen to. This movie is excellent for young and old, delivering a feel-good movie for all. Wish is yet another treasure in the world of Disney.

I’m really excited for the next 100 years of Disney magic. The movie Wish has the potential to become a sequel, or even provide potential spin-offs exploring the wishes and dreams of others in the magical Disney Universe.

My wish is for more many more years of movie magic from Disney. What is yours?

My rating is a 4 out of 5 for Disney’s Wish. Watch at a cinema near you and join in the Disney centennial celebrations!

Wish Official Trailer (Disney)

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