Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5
USA, 2021. Pixar Animation Studios, Walt Disney Pictures. Story by Enrico Casarosa, Jesse Andrews, Simon Stephenson, Screenplay by Jesse Andrews, Mike Jones, story consultants Julie Lynn, Randall Green. Cinematography by David Juan Bianchi, Kim White. Produced by Andrea Warren. Music by Dan Romer. Production Design by Daniela Strijleva. Film Editing by Catherine Apple, Jason Hudak.
Off the coast of the Italian Riviera, families of sea monsters live beneath the water’s surface, characters that are every bit as close-knit and overprotective as the Italians who reside in the lovely seaside town by the shore. Luca (Jacob Tremblay) is a young aquatic creature growing up under the thumb of his very nervous mother (Maya Rudolph), who is always worried that he’ll spotted by and harmed by one of the many ignorant humans who hunts them for sport. When Luca makes the friendship of Alberto, a fellow sea creature, he discovers that their kind has the magical ability to look human whenever they dry off on shore, which leads to tons of fun in the sun and sand before Luca’s mother finds out how he has been spending his free time. She threatens to send him further into the deep with a distant uncle if he doesn’t stop defying her, so Luca runs away to live on land permanently, and Alberto joins him as they both discover the delights of human civilization (since, of course, we are always what everyone wants to be), going to school, eating pasta and making the friendship of a charming young lass named Giulia (Emma Berman). She is enrolling in a local annual bicycle competition and they sign up as a team, hoping to beat the town’s resident privileged snob Ercole (Saverio Raimondo) despite the fact that they don’t have his resources. The boys can’t tell Giulia who they really are, especially as her father styles himself an expert hunter of sea creatures, and have to avoid getting wet in front of the sea monster-fearing citizens of this town as it turns their skin to scales, plus Luca’s parents (dad voiced by Jim Gaffigan) show up in town looking for their son. There are moments of charm in this colourful tale that sympathizes with the plight of the born outsider, maintaining a sweet, uncomplicated tone that accompanies the beauty of its setting with consistent ease. There’s also very little here that Pixar hasn’t done plenty of times before and the tropes are beginning to sag, from the anthropomorphizing of animals to the, no pun intended, fish out of water scenario that leads to a moral message about tolerance and co-operation. Even the most clever action sequences do little to shake you of the feeling that you’ve been here many times before, but little children will have a great time with it.