[Screen It]


(2021) (voices of Jacob Tremblay, Jack Dylan Grazer) (PG)

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Computer-Animated Dramedy: A sea creature runs away from home and takes on the appearance of a human like his new friend as they try to win a triathlon to make enough money to buy a Vespa.

Off the coastal Italian town of Portorosso, Luca Paguro (voice of JACOB TREMBLAY) is a sea creature who lives underwater with his parents, Daniela (voice of MAYA RUDOLPH) and Lorenzo (voice of JIM GAFFIGAN), and his Grandma (voice of SANDY MARTIN). Luca's job is herding fish, but he's curious about the world above the water's surface, something his overprotective mother forbids him to think or talk about, let alone visit. But one day he runs into fellow sea creature Alberto Scorfano (voice of JACK DYLAN GRAZER) who takes him up top where both instantly transform into human appearances.

Alberto's been collecting human objects and his dream of one day owning a Vespa quickly draws Luca in as well. When Daniela learns what their son has been doing, she and Lorenzo arrange to have the boy live with his uncle in the depths of the sea. Unhappy about that, Luca runs away from home and sets off with Alberto for Portorosso where they try to blend in with the humans. That ends up including tomboy Giulia Marcovaldo (voice of EMMA BERMAN) who lives there in the summer with her fisherman father, Massimo (voice of MARCO BARRICELLI).

She's determined this year to win the town's annual triathlon -- that consists of swimming, biking, and eating pasta -- and finally defeat the reigning and highly egotistical Ercole Visconti (voice of SAVERIO RAIMONDO) and his two stooges, Ciccio (voice of PETER SOHN) and Guido (voice of LORENZO CRISCI). When Luca and Alberto learn that the winner will receive prize money that could be used to buy an old Vespa, they convince Giulia to let them join her team.

But with them having to remain dry to hide their true identities from her and everyone else in the town that's fearful of and wants to kill any sea monsters, the two boys do what they can to continue the ruse, all while Luca's parents must do the same while trying to find him.

OUR TAKE: 7 out of 10

There are plenty of things that can be argued about when it comes down to whether they're nature or nurture-based. Some people's taste buds are wired so they automatically hate Brussels sprouts, but others think they don't like them because they saw how their parents or siblings reacted to them. Some have an instinctual fear of what lurks below in dark waters, while others learn that when they're growing up.

But there's no denying that intolerance for others based on race, gender, orientation, age, and other such attributes is a learned behavior. No one is born prejudiced. They learn that from their family, friends, or sometimes strangers. And they usually end up passing that down to their kids and so on as the vicious cycle continues.

To break that, kids need to be taught about tolerance and acceptance at an early age, and sometimes entertainment offerings can step in and help instill such life lessons in the form of parables. You know, like the Bible uses to get the point across on any number of matters. A select few view such outside influence as attempts at brainwashing or otherwise indoctrinating kids into what they deem is some sort of "perverted" lifestyle that goes against their morals.

The vast majority, however, appreciate the gentle reminder to love rather than fear or detest thy neighbor and anyone who might be different than you, and that's the underlying message of Pixar's latest film, "Luca." While not an offering that will sit atop their "best of" standings, it's nonetheless a sweet and entertaining little flick that packs a nice emotional wallop at the end.

It's named after our protagonist, a young, mostly anthropomorphic sea creature (voiced by Jacob Tremblay) who wonders about what life is like above the surface. His overprotective mother (Maya Rudolph) warns him that the "land monsters" up there are jonesing "to do murder" and that he's forbidden from thinking or talking about that place and clearly is never to go there. His interest is piqued, however, when he finds a few human-created objects on the seafloor and then especially when another, slightly older boy like him literally drags him up and onto dry land.

Not exactly a fish out of water -- after all, he immediately transforms into human form like his new friend Alberto (Jack Dylan Grazer) -- he must nonetheless learn how to walk and do other such things if he's going to fit in up top. And that's important because the boys discover they share an innate love of Vespas and the freedom they seem to offer. And after trying to build their own makeshift one, they set out for the local coastal town of Portorosso to find "Mr. Vespa" and get their no-longer webbed hands on one.

The only problem is that any contact with water immediately reverts them back into their sea creature appearance and the townsfolk have a long tradition and desire of hunting the mysterious but universally feared sea monsters. Fortunately for them, the town's annual triathlon -- where biking and swimming are still present but running has been replaced by pasta eating -- is coming up and the related prize money could earn them enough to purchase a Vespa, albeit a used one.

Teaming up with tomboy Giulia (Emma Berman) -- the daughter of fisherman Massimo (Marco Barricelli) who'd just love to kill a sea monster or two -- they train for the race but must contend with the brash, arrogant, and uber-egotistical Ercole (Saverio Raimondo) who automatically looks down on the outsiders, and that's without realizing they're sea creatures in disguise.

Scribes Jesse Andrews and Mike Jones deliver an entertaining mix of story elements that manage to feel familiar yet fresh enough to keep audience members of all ages engaged from start to finish.

Along the way, there's plenty of action, comedy, and some heartfelt moments -- no surprise considering this is a Pixar release, this one from first-time feature director Enrico Casarosa -- as well as that important life lesson of accepting others, even if they have ordinarily have scales, gills, tails, and such. And in this case, "Luca" proves that nurturing an open mindset is a good way to foster a better today and tomorrow. The film rates as a 7 out of 10.

Reviewed June 16, 2021 / Posted June 18, 2021

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