The next day, he follows his new friend to the surface. He's a little reluctant at first, but then he gets the courage to skim the surface. After he changes into a human, he says it feels like his tail is still there and Alberto replies that it's "phantom tail" and that he'll get used to it. When Luca tries to walk, he immediately flops down and Alberto gives him the oh-so-great advice, "Walking is just like swimming. But without fins. Or a tail. And there's no water. Otherwise it's the exact same thing." Heh. Uh, walking is NOT just like swimming! After a few struggles, Alberto tells him to point his feet towards where he wants to go, then catch himself before he can fall and this seems to work. You know, I take walking for granted, that I'm not really sure how I would tell someone who was walking for the first time how to do it.
Alberto shows Luca a stone (non working) lighthouse nearby where he lives with his dad, but his dad isn't around often (in fact, we never meet him, but we'll find out why later) so he does what he wants. He tells Luca, "Everything good is above the surface. (I mean, he's not wrong). This includes air, gravity, the sky, clouds and the sun. He demonstrates gravity by falling from the top of the lighthouse which is pretty far up and if he was anything other than an animated character, he would break his neck and die. Alberto loves "human stuff" and has a huge collection in his lighthouse. Luca is taken with a poster of a man riding a red Vespa, which Alberto tells him is the greatest thing in the world: "You just sit on it and it takes you anywhere you want to go in the world." The poster reads "Vespa è libertà which means "Vespa is freedom".
We get the first of many dream/fantasy sequences there are in the film where Luca imagines himself riding a Vespa over the ocean.
Getting inspired, he looks around and asks Alberto if he's going to make one and makes notes that it looks like he has all the parts. Yep, everything but the motor! Luca helps him even though he keeps telling Alberto he needs to go. Several hours tick by and it is very late when he returns home. Daniela is waiting for him and demands to know where he's been. Luca internally thinks, "Don't say surface, don't say surface" and outloud he says, "Surface." It reminded me of the scene in Turning Red when Mei tells herself not to draw attention to her notebook.
I admit the movie got me because it turns out this never happened. It was all in Luca's head as he was imagining what would be the worst outcome. When his mother is demanding to know where he's been (in reality), his grandmother saves him by telling his parents it was her fault because she sent him looking for sea cucumbers and Luca plays along with the story. Nonna knows what's up!Room. Heh, I just read on his Wikipedia page that he's voicing Flounder in the live-action Little Mermaid. How adorable. And appropriate. From one sea-dwelling creature to another! Alberto is voice by Jack Dylan Grazer. I wasn't familiar with his name, but when I was listening to a podcast review of this movie, the hosts mentioned he was the friend in Shazam and I immediately knew who he was. Also, his uncle is Brian Grazer so you know he's met Ron Howard.
So Alberto rides his rickety Vespa down a super steep cliff while Luca holds a ramp that Alberto told him to hold. Again, it is lucky that Alberto is an animated character because he rides that thing down the steep cliff and into the ocean. He would be dead, otherwise. As he's going down, the scooter falls apart until it's just the front wheel and handlebars, pretty much. Yikes.
We get a montage of them building another Vespa and during this time, Luca's parents find out that he's been going to the shore. During the evening, as they're laying on top of the lighthouse, Luca asks Alberto what's up in the sky and Alberto tells them they're anchovies and "the big fish protects them" as he points to the moon. Luca asks him if he's even been to a human town (and it's interesting that he says "human town" instead of "land monster town"). Alberto says no, but his dad has and he's heard all about it from it, so he claims he's "pretty much an expert."
After day dreaming of owning a Vespa (again!), Luca falls asleep and is late getting home. His mother is waiting for him (this sounds familiar!), but this time he doesn't have his grandmother to save him. His parents show him the human stuff they found, such as an alarm clock and a playing card. They make him promise not to sneak up to the shore again. Luca apologizes and tells them, "It's not that dangerous up there."
His dad has brought his odd brother, Luca's Uncle Ugo (Sacha Baron Cohen) to talk to Luca. Ugo has a transparent body so you can see his heart and other organs (eww) and he lives in the depths of the ocean where "it's just you and your thoughts" since there's not much to see. Ugh, that sounds horrible. And boring. I suppose he lives with anglerfish, those awful, terrifying creatures that live in the deepest depths of the sea. Daniela tells her son that he's going to stay with Uncle Ugo "for the rest of the season". She tells him the world is a dangerous place and she'll do anything to protect him, including sending him to the bottom of the ocean. As long as he's under her ocean, he'll have to listen to her! (A little The Little Mermaid humor there...isn't that what King Triton says to Ariel? It's been a minute since I've seen that movie).
The next day, Luca is at the lighthouse (I guess his parents don't watch him very closely!) and he tells Alberto how his parents want to send him away. Alberto suggests that Luca stay in the lighthouse but Luca says his parents will look for him. Alberto tells him if he goes to the nearby town, his parents won't look for him there. (Spoiler alert: he thought wrong!) He seems to think there will be a Vespa over there waiting for them. I love this conversation between them; again amazing job by the young actors:
"Wait. Do you really think there's a Signor Vespa?"
"Makes sense, right?'
We get a montage of each kid training for their segment of the race. Luca will have to bike down Mount Portorosso and it looks super steep with lots of winding paths. I remember I once biked down a mountain in Colorado and that was not fun. And this looks way more steep (with lots more obstacles!) I love when Luca and Alberto are in a boat as they're watching Giulia swim and Luca says, "I guess that's how humans swim?" and Alberto replies with, "That's embarrassing." Haha, that was hilarious.
As Giulia is swimming, Ercole and his cronies (Ciccio and Guido) are in a speed boat and they get near Luca and Alberto, splashing their boat and water gets on Alberto, turning him into a sea monster. He ducks down for cover and Luca goes to get him a towel but ends up accidentally pushing him off the boat. Ercole gets suspicions when he only sees one of them and sees the tail of Alberto, but then he gets distracted when Giulia starts shaking his boat and Luca is able to pull Alberto back in the boat and dry him off.
This fight escalates the next day when the three kids are near the sea. Luca suggests to Giulia that they go to school with her and she thinks that's a great idea. Alberto asks if her school takes non-human species, "like, perhaps, sea monsters?" (Way to get to the point!) Of course, Giulia is confused so Alberto tells her he'll show her and jumps into the water to reveal his true identity. She is freaked out by what she sees, but even worse, Luca pretends to be scared and surprised to see a sea monster too. Ercole, who was nearby, sees this (he doesn't know that Alberto is the sea monster) and starts throwing spears at him. Alberto swim away, unharmed, but it is clear he is hurt by Luca.
Back at Giulia's house, Luca tells Massimo that Alberto left and doesn't want anyone looking for him, but Massimo decides to look anyway. Luca starts worrying about the race since it will now just be him and Giulia and asks Giulia if it's allowed if she swims and eats and he rides the bike. Apparently, this race will let three people enter together or just one person - none of this pair nonsense! Giulia is trying to tell him something but Lua won't stop babbling, so she grabs a glass of water and throws it at him. He puts up his hands and they turn into green fins, exposing that he's a sea monster. Giulia seems to understand what's going on and tells him Portorosso is no place for sea monsters. (Yeah, no kidding!) She advices him to leave before her father, hunter of sea monster, finds out. They are both sad, but Giulia tells him it's not worth risking his life over a Vespa. Especially a run down Vespa. (Giulia didn't say that last part, that was my own thought).
Luca swims to the island with the stone lighthouse where he finds Alberto at the top. He apologies, but Alberto is having none of it. On the wall, Lua notices a bunch of marks scratched into the wall, counting off days that Alberto has been living on his own. It turns out his dad told him he was old enough to be on his own and just left him there to fend for himself. He says his dad is better off without him and so is Luca, to which Luca replies he's going to win the race and get that Vespa.
It's now the day of the race and Luca and Giulia are entering separately. They will have to swim first, then eat (good thinking about not having the eating portion after the swimming segment!), then ride their bikes up, then down the steep terrain. For the swimming relay, Lua is wearing an old scuba diving suit so nobody will see him turn into a sea monster. The suit is so heavy that he has to walk (slowly!) on the ocean floor and can't even swim. Meanwhile, on Ercole's team, he has oiled up one of his cronies so he's nice and slick (Ercole is doing the riding portion) and when they get to the eating portion, he stuff his other teammate's face with pasta (even though that's against the rules!) Giulia is the first to finish the swimming eating legs, but the others, including Luca, are not far behind her.
So everyone (except Ercole) is happy. Even Ercole's two cronies give him the old heave-ho. Now all sea-dwelling creatures are accepted and we get a fun reveal of two old ladies who we saw earlier in the movie eating coni gelato are actually seas monsters. (I bet they know Luca's grandma!) All posters promising rewards for capturing sea monsters are torn up.
When everyone is at the train station to say goodbye to Guilia who is heading to Genoa to go to school, Alberto sees that Luca is sad that he's not attending school with her. After she boards the train, he tells Luca that he sold their Vespa and hand hims a ticket. Luca's parents inform him they've arranged for him to go to school and he'll be staying with Giulia and her mom. Now, when Guilia talked about going to school in Genoa, I just assumed she went to boarding school. It didn't cross my mind that her parents were divorced and she stayed with her dad in the summer. His mom makes him promise to be safe and write every day. We find out it was Alberto that talked everyone into this arrangement. I wonder if Giulia knew about it or if she was surprised when Luca got on the train. Luca asks Alberto if he's going with them, but he's going to stay in Portorosso and help Massimo with his fishing.
This movie didn't make me turn on the waterworks like most of Pixar's other work (come to think of it, nether did Turning Red), but it did make me shed a few light tears (so did Turning Red). It is one of their most aesthetically pleasing movies. I would totally visit Portorosso if it were a real place (but mostly because there seems to be no tourists!) And now I need to find some pasta to eat. Arrivederci!