For all the fun that Disney and Pixar’s latest film, “Luca,” predictably provides, it steps backward by employing a time-worn trope you might not have expected: the absent-minded dad.
With likable Jim Gaffigan at the helm – who admittedly knows a thing or two about dadly self-depreciation – it’s a surprising move while the rest of Hollywood seeks equality and eradication of stereotypes.
Of course, films are trying to right the ship. Superheroes aren’t just white anymore; they reflect nationalities across a wide spectrum. We’re largely done seeing damsels in distress; today’s successful female characters don’t sexualize or diminish their gender, they lead. Even animation has taken strides by employing actors whose skin represent their cartooned personas.
But then you have “Luca” with its preoccupied dad.
What in the name of Pixar’s lamp is going on here?
The sad part is this was unwarranted, gratuitous and preventable. While Luca’s overly protective mother Daniela (Maya Rudolph) admirably tries to save the day – Gaffigan’s character is left looking like her passive assistant at best.
For once, moviegoers get to see both Disney parents alive and instead they’re treated to a dad who can’t seem to get this parenthood thing down. The same idea was employed in 2018’s “The Incredibles 2,” as the dad from the titular superhero family struggled in his new role as a stay-at-home parent.
One could claim this film’s 1950s period setting merely reflects how dads were less involved during a simplified “Leave it to Beaver” era. Yet this categorization is unfair to the Greatest Generation who worked hard to provide for their families and got labeled as “distant” or “uninvolved.”
What moviegoers could have really used is some dad positivity, especially as the Disney+ film opened a mere two days before Father’s Day, and with the world slowly opening from a pandemic. Instead, subscribers were not only treated to an unnecessary absent-minded dad, but another – only mentioned by name – who abandoned his son (Luca’s new friend, Alberto).
In an otherwise beautiful Disney/Pixar movie filled with dazzling visuals, strong character development and a kindhearted story – even if it mimics 1989’s “The Little Mermaid” – it was a shame to see a dad used so little and leaning lazily on threadbare comic material.
While the rest of the nation looks with careful judgment on unfortunate stereotypes, this film sadly takes a step backward with equality. Dads have never been more active and involved in their families – and they’ve operated this way for a long time. Disney/Pixar should reflect this in film.
It’s time the entertainment world truly catches up because the next generation of fatherhood is watching.