After giving us a couple hilarious Toy Story shorts, Pixar finally gets back to the kind of heartwarming original animated visions that won the studio a slew of Oscar love during the aughts. Writer/director Enrico Casarosa comes out of the art department with a stunningly poignant film about three generations of Italian men and the uniquely secretive job they’ve held and passed on for decades. La Luna is Bambino’s (Krista Sheffler) introduction to the tradition—donning his first hat before climbing up to the stars.
Utilizing Michael Giacchino‘s score to set the mood, Casarosa’s characters converse through ethnically stereotypical hand gestures and humorously inaudible mumblings. Papa (Tony Fucile) and Nonno (Phil Sheridan) each hope to nudge Bambino into following their own unique take on their career by showing the boy how to tilt his headwear, handle a broom, and trim his facial hair. But like all precocious kids, he’ll find his own way to traverse this new experience once curiosity turns trepidation into a healthy confidence with a desire to explore.
With some stunning animation and an intriguingly romantic look at our relationship to the moon glowing above, La Luna takes us on a custodial adventure brimming with the warmth of love. There is an inherent Super Mario Bros. feel underlying the proceedings—the Italian overtones mimicked through their hats and mustauches help such a comparison while shooting stars manifested as rudimentary, five-pointed shapes conjure the plumbers’ token of brief invincibility—but it only makes everything more familiar while possessing a stronger emotional connection.
Watching Bambino’s excitement grow as the large moon rises into the night sky is a fantastic bit of wonderment, but Papa raising their boat’s ladder towards it truly becomes the grand spectacle on display. Seeing the youngster climb it with an anchor tied to his back only increases your intrigue as the reason for their twilight travels has yet to be uncovered. As the boy flips gravities, however, and lands feet first on the giant star-riddled, glowing orb, we begin to understand this patriarchal trio holds an incalculable amount of importance life as we know it.
And with a brilliant payoff coming from a glorious final shot I honestly didn’t see coming, Casarosa brings his work full circle by showing the fruits of their labor and the knowledge that they’ll be coming back to do it all again soon. It’s a romantic vision of our celestial friend chock full of sentimentality and a feeling that even the smallest jobs hold immense worth. La Luna introduces us to a brilliant new voice, showing how the creative minds at Pixar still have it in them to bring us powerful, unique storytelling despite fears that the studio was slowly morphing into a lackluster sequel machine.