Luca ★★★

Feels like a step in the right direction for Pixar in a lot of ways.

Its animation is refreshingly simplified and stylized, instead of the “detail obsessed to the point of photo realism” look of much of Pixar’s latest work. If you can save dozens of artists hours of grinding over the texture and lighting of each pebble AND the film is better for it, that’s great!

It also doesn’t feel like it’s trying to convince me it’s a Pixar film. For over a decade now, Pixar has been eagerly pursuing that lightning in a bottle magic they had in their early work rather than letting it come naturally. Characters and moments calculated to be “Pixar characters” and “Pixar moments” plague films like Onward, Soul and The Good Dinosaur (not to mention the various lame sequels they’ve done). Here, for the first time in a while, that’s not the case. The characters and story are refreshingly allowed to just be. I don’t think they’ll become iconic like Pixar’s greatest, but at least they weren’t desperately trying to.

It’s a nice time, though it’s almost too gung ho to move the plot forward. There are hardly any scenes that are allowed to breathe separate from the immediate plot. It’s efficient to a fault. It’d be high tier Dreamworks, it ain’t no Ratatouille.