In Luca, the latest Pixar production to give animals human traits and needs, a young sea monster yearns for adventure. Enrico Casarosa’s brightly coloured and energetic animated film is being streamed on Disney+ Hotstar.

Luca (Jacob Tremblay) wants to escape his underwater home and to go to “the surface”, where humans who have demonised his kind reside. Luca gets his wish when he meets another sea monster, Alberto (Jack Dylan Grazer). Alberto, who has been living in human form for years on the edge of the waters, takes the curious and wide-eyed Luca under his fin.

Alberto wants one and only one thing: to own a Vespa scooter. “It’s the greatest thing that humans ever made,” Alberto exults, sounding a bit like an advertising copywriter.

Luca and Alberto make it to a town straight out of a tourist brochure. There, amidst other Italian delights (pasta, gelato, football, cobbled streets, cute houses), the pair befriends the plucky Guilia (Emma Berman), tackle the vain and mean Ercole (Saverio Raimondo) and make every attempt to avoid water, since it will restore them to their original selves.

This coming-of-age tale aimed at older children has just about enough seriousness to claim to be an allegory about immigration and tolerance. The Italian setting reminds us of other, less fortunate souls who frequently wash ashore from lands far away.

The most memorable among the cutely designed and cheerful characters is Guilia’s moustachioed cat, the only one who knows who the boys really are.

The movie is more convincing on land than under the water. Maya Rudolph and James Gaffigan, as Luca’s over-anxious parents, are among the characters who are simply not aquatic enough. One question remains unanswered: how do sea monsters know how to read?

Luca (2021).