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Something seems a little bit fishy here, but we can't put our finger on it...

"Every day we’ll ride some place new. And every night we’ll sleep under the fish. No one to tell us what to do, just you and me out there. Free!"
Alberto Scorfano

Luca is the twenty-fourth animated film offering by Pixar. It was directed by Enrico Casarosa (La Luna) with a screenplay by Mike Jones (co-writer on Soul) and Jesse Andrews. The second direct-to-digital Pixar film, it was released on the Disney+ streaming service on June 18, 2021, alongside an exclusive one-week theatrical run at the El Capitan Theatre.

Luca Paguro (Jacob Tremblay) and Alberto Scorfano (Jack Dylan Grazer) are two young boys who are having an amazing summer in Portorosso, a beautiful seaside town in the Italian region of Liguria. However, between their fun Vespa rides and partaking of Italian cuisine, the duo is hiding a major secret from all others — they're actually sea monsters who transform into humans when on dry land.

Previews: Teaser, Official Trailer.

On Disney+ day, November 12, 2021, the streaming service released a short film that follows the adventures of Alberto in Portorosso called Ciao Alberto.

This movie contains examples of:

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    Tropes A-M 
  • Acquaintance Denial: Played for Drama. Luca and Alberto are both sea monsters, who can appear as humans when their skin is dry. When some humans who hate sea monsters see Alberto (in sea monster form), Luca (in human form) pretends to be scared of him and not know him so that the humans won't realise he's also a sea monster, which hurts Alberto's feelings.
  • Actor Allusion:
    • When Uncle Ugo introduces himself to Luca, his failing heart causes him to freeze, cutting him off just as he says "very nice!"
    • After Giulia saves Alberto and Luca from Ercole, the latter screams: "Fine! Go start a club! For losers!" Jack Dylan Grazer, Alberto's voice actor, was known worldwide for being in the Losers' Club.
  • Actually Pretty Funny: Guido chuckles when Luca compares Ercole to a catfish. He gets slapped in the face via a sandwich for it.
  • Adaptive Ability: This seems to be a trait of sea monster biology, as it's shown their species automatically change to assume a human form when dry, right down to their tails disappearing. They also seem to dry very quickly, in only seconds, allowing them to change fairly quickly, as long as nothing keeps wetting them down. Similarly, Uncle Ugo's appearance seems to indicate that if they live in deeper water, they change into something more biologically suited for such an environment, becoming translucent and developing anglerfish-like traits.
  • Advertising by Association: One TV spot announces "From the creators of Coco, Inside Out [and] Toy Story." Another highlights Toy Story, Inside Out and Soul.
  • Alien Hair: Luca and Alberto both have locks of curly hair in human form, but their sea monster form is shown to replace each lock with a fin.
  • All There in the Manual:
  • All There in the Script:
    • Several minor characters like Don Eugenio (the local priest) and the elderly sisters Concetta and Pinuccia Aragosta aren't named in the film itself and their names only appear in the credits. Though the sisters' last name is Italian for "lobster", which fits with the other sea monsters' Animal Theme Naming.
    • The main children's ages are only revealed in the script: Luca is 12, Alberto is 14, Giulia is 13, while Ercole is 18.
  • Alternative Foreign Theme Song: The Japanese dub uses Yorushika voicalist suis's rendition of Yosui Inoue's song, "Shonen Jidai (Boyhood)".
  • Anachronistic Soundtrack: Downplayed. Most of the real-life songs featured in the movie are accurate to the time period (ca. 1959-62) except for Edoardo Bennato's "Il gatto e la volpe" which was released in 1977. However, because of the song's acoustic arrangement, it blends in without difficulty.
  • And the Adventure Continues: The end credits contain drawings showing the continuing adventures of Luca, Alberto and Giulia.
  • And Then What?: Downplayed - when sharing their goals for when they win the Portorosso Cup, Giulia says that she intends to proclaim to everyone who doubted her that she told them she'd win. When Luca asks what she'll do after that, she just shrugs and easily admits that the validation is all she really wants out of it.
  • Anger Born of Worry: After Giulia finds out that Luca is also a sea monster, she starts angrily ranting at him. Not because he lied to her, but because he and Alberto were putting their lives at risk when they chose Portorosso, a town known for hunting sea monsters, as a place to explore.
  • Animal Athlete Loophole: Ain't no rule that sea monsters can't win the race.
  • Animal Theme Naming: All the surnames of the sea monsters are Italian words for sea animals; Paguro is "hermit crab", Scorfano is "redfish", and Branzino is "sea bass". The elderly sisters' last name is Aragosta according to the script, which means "lobster" and indicates that they're also sea monsters as revealed towards the end.
  • Arc Words: "Silenzio, Bruno!", a phrase invented by Alberto meant to get rid of any fear and doubt in your mind, comes up several times throughout the movie, most notably by Luca when he goes to Alberto's island to make amends after their fight, and again when Alberto encourages a nervous Luca to take the train ticket to Genova Alberto traded his Vespa away for so Luca can go to school with Giulia.
  • Artistic License – Physics: During the climactic bike race, it suddenly starts to heavily rain. Despite this, the kids are all shown being able to make sharp turns going down really fast on the wet ground, when the lack of friction should cause them to crash. However, they also survive a plunge out a second story window landing without damage to themselves or their bike so Rule of Funny is the overriding tone of the race.
  • Babies Ever After: The credits show that Machiavelli found a mate and had many kittens.
  • Bait-and-Switch: Massimo responds to Alberto staring at his missing right arm by claiming that a sea monster ate it. It seems to be setting up a reason why he hunts sea monsters... but then he admits he's joking and that he was just born with a missing arm.
  • Bait-and-Switch Compassion: When Luca accidentally kicks a soccer ball onto Ercole's Vespa, it starts to tip over but Ciccio dives under the scooter to cushion its fall. Ercole runs over and, with great concern, asks "Are you hurt?", but it turns out he is talking to the Vespa.
  • Big Damn Heroes: When Luca is stuck under an overhang as rain threatens to expose him at a pivotal moment, Alberto arrives with an umbrella... only for Ercole to knock Alberto over with his bike, causing him to drop the umbrella and expose his secret to the town.
  • Bittersweet Ending: In this case, more skewed towards the "sweet" end. Luca, Alberto, and Luca's family are ultimately accepted by the residents of Portorosso and, when it's time for Giulia to return to Genova for school, Luca's parents reveal that it's been arranged for Luca to accompany her. However, Alberto will be remaining in Portorosso with Massimo, meaning that Luca won't see either him or his family until the next summer. The credits show both sides keeping in contact through letters and phone calls as they enjoy their new lives.
  • Blinded by the Sun: When Alberto shows Luca all the great things the surface has, he points out the sky, clouds and sun to him. He tells Luca not to look at the sun... before immediately taking it back as a joke. Alberto squints at it but clueless Luca looks up wide-eyed and promptly falls over from the surprise and pain at how bright it is.
  • Blowing a Raspberry:
    • After Giulia first saves Luca and Alberto from Ercole, she leaves while blowing one at him.
    • Guido does a well-deserved one to Ercole after he and Ciccio throw him in the fountain as payback for his constant abuse.
  • Book Ends: Ercole's first scene has him fussing over his Vespa (which was saved from damage by Ciccio) as "Piccolina". His last scene is of him fussing over his ruined sweater (which was dropped into the water by Ciccio) as "piccolino".
  • Both Sides Have a Point:
    • Upon learning that Luca's been sneaking up to the surface every day and learning about the human world, Daniella tries to send him to the "Deep" in the hopes that it will cure his fascination with humans and keep him safe. Luca runs away to avoid this, and ends up living with Alberto, Giulia, and Massimo in Portorosso for over a week. While running away from his family wasn't the best choice, Daniella's actions were a little too extreme (as sending Luca away would have done him more harm than good) and she wouldn't listen to Luca's explanation.
    • Alberto and Luca have an argument about the latter wanting to go to school with Giulia. It is the first time Luca realizes he has an interest beyond always following Alberto's lead and wants to learn more about the world. Alberto points out that they are sea monsters and there's considerable risk if Luca is discovered.
  • Breather Episode: More like "Breather Movie", as Luca is less emotionally heavy and lower-stakes than Pixar's previous offerings in recent years, which dealt with concepts like depression, death, and worrying about finding your purpose in life. This is even Lampshaded by Honest Trailers.
    Epic Voice Guy: Inside Out had you relive the end of your childhood. Soul gave you an existential crisis. Now, the studio that loves to make children stare death in the face asks audiences to consider: "What if two fish boys had a fun summer together?" Okay. Phew. Cause I could not handle another Coco right now.
  • Brick Joke:
    • In the beginning of the movie, Luca has trouble with Giuseppe, a goatfish that keeps trying to wander off from the herd. The Stinger shows that Ugo is back in the deep talking again about the joys of being there. The scene cuts to show that he's talking to Giuseppe who likely escaped from the herd again but was taken by Ugo who mistook him for Luca. As Ugo praises his new life, Giuseppe quietly sidles off-screen to the right just as he had done earlier with Luca.
    • When Daniela and Lonenzo first arrive in Portorosso, Daniela claims that she'll be able to immediately recognize her son. Despite spending most of the movie fruitlessly searching for Luca, she does indeed recognize him(and he her) immediately when he finally crosses their path.
  • The Bully: Ercole is introduced as the terror of Portorosso, abusing his status as the winner of the Portorosso Cup many times over to intimidate the locals into doing what he wants and treating even his own toadies as though they're his slaves.
  • Callback: In one scene, Luca and Alberto enjoy a lovely sunset together, marking the bond between them as friends. Later, Luca and Alberto have a fight on the beach which also happens during a sunset. Only this time, the feelings surrounding the scene reflect hurt and angry feelings, marking the schism to their friendship.
  • Can't You Read the Sign?: In the scene where Daniela is using a soccer ball to knock the kids into the fountain, there is a "No Soccer" sign on a nearby wall. Clearly, nobody cares.
  • Cats Are Mean: Subverted. Massimo's cat Machiavelli is less mean and more suspicious of Luca and Alberto after seeing their true forms, going so far as to attack them. Once they demonstrate they aren’t a threat by feeding him regularly, he warms up to them.
  • Catapult Nightmare: After Luca has his dream of "wild Vespas" that turns into a melting moon-fish nightmare, Luca jolts awake to realize that he fell asleep on Alberto's island and is way late in returning home.
  • Change the Uncomfortable Subject: When Luca asks Alberto if he's ever been to the human town, Alberto tells him that he's an expert on it (despite never having been) because his father told him all about it. Luca wistfully says that Alberto's dad sounds "so cool" and that Alberto is "lucky" to be allowed to do as he pleases. Alberto verbally agrees, but his downcast expression doesn't match his words and Luca doesn't notice. After a short pause, Alberto changes the subject.
    Alberto: Hey, remember that time we almost hit that rock?
  • Cheated Angle: There are scenes where the characters' mouths are placed on the side of the face for clearer expressions. This is most evident in the "Silenzio, Bruno!" scene.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • When Luca first encounters Alberto, he's wearing an old diving suit. Later that suit is used to allow Luca to participate in the swimming portion of the race solo without revealing his true nature as a Sea Monster.
    • When Luca and Alberto first arrive at Portorosso underwater and pause beside the sunken boat they'll use to sneak ashore, the only other item on the seafloor is a bike to their right. Since Giulia has only one bike, when Luca decides to participate in the race on his own, it's actually this bike that he retrieves from the seafloor to use for the race. He apparently does this just before asking Signora Marsigliese, the race coordinator, if they can split up the team because the bike is still dripping water and has seaweed still sticking to it at that point.
  • Circling Birdies: Luca's first attempt going downhill on the bike results in him being thrown off and lying stunned against a wall with three fishes swimming around his head.
  • Clothesline Stealing: Daniela and Lorenzo steal some clothes from a clothesline when going into Portorosso to look for Luca.
  • Company Cross References: A Donald Duck cloth toy can be seen in Giulia's room.
  • Contrived Coincidence: The only reason Giulia and Massimo didn't find out that Luca and Alberto were Sea Monsters after their first night was because Giulia's eyes were closed when she gave them a wake up call and Massimo entered through the door with his back turned.
  • Cool Bike:
    • Ercole rides a red Vespa scooter to get around the streets in his first appearance.
    • By the end of the film, Alberto gets the rusted green Vespa after winning the Portorosso Cup, though he sells it soon after.
  • Crazy Jealous Guy: Alberto starts to have feelings of jealousy when Luca and Giulia share an interest in learning. When it reached to a point when he intentionally reveals himself to Giulia (following Luca's betrayal), he goes back to the island and trashed everything in there (even ripping up the drawing of him and Luca).
  • Creator Cameo: Enrico Casarosa appears as one of the Scopa players Luca encounters during his first visit to Portorosso. Later on, Casarosa appears as one of the furious fishermen.
  • Creator Provincialism: Director Enrico Casarosa was born in Genova and moved to the USA in his twenties. The film is set in the Italian region of Liguria, where Genova is situated.
  • Creator's Culture Carryover: In the scene where Daniela uses a soccer ball to knock the kids into the fountain, there is a "No Soccer" sign nearby. Soccer is primarily an American word, so considering that the film takes place in Italy, it would be more appropriate for the sign to say "No Football" or "No Calcio".
  • Creepy Old-Fashioned Diving Suit: Alberto briefly scares Luca by wearing this diving dress when both are on their sea monster forms underwater.
  • Cute Monster Boy: Both Luca and Alberto's sea monster forms.
  • Daydream Surprise: The first time Luca returns from the surface and is asked by his parents where he's been all day, he tells himself to not say that he was at the surface, only to blurt out "surface" anyway. His parents get extraordinarily angry with him and point out his still-human foot, much to Luca's horror... then we cut to him still at the doorway to his cave not having said anything yet.
  • Death Glare: As Alberto gives in to his feelings of New Friend Envy, he delivers a bunch to Giulia when he sees Luca giving her all the attention.
  • Disappeared Dad: Alberto claims to live with his dad in the stone tower, and says he's not around very often. He reveals to Luca later that his father actually abandoned him.
  • Dissimile: According to Alberto, walking is just like swimming, but without fins or a tail, and there's no water. Otherwise, it's exactly the same thing.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Some fans have pointed out that Daniella's decision to send Luca to "the Deep" for a season in an attempt to "cure" his fascination with humans is similar to how some parents of LGBTQ+ children will send their kids to boarding school or conversion therapy in an attempt to "cure" them.
  • The Dog Bites Back: Ciccio and Guido can only take so many orders (and so much mistreatment) before they finally repay Ercole's unkindness by throwing him (and his precious wool sweater) into the town's fountain.
  • Dope Slap: Ercole slaps people around like no tomorrow and even makes his own goons slap each other as punishment.
  • Double Take:
    • When Luca wakes up in Giulia's treehouse, he looks at Alberto sleeping, looks away... and freaks out understanding they're both in their monster forms since it rained during the night.
    • Ercole has this when he spots Alberto change into a sea monster in the rain, going from laughing at Alberto to quickly freaking out.
  • Ear Fins: All the sea monsters have fins in place of ears.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: Who else would be the stupido that rudely drives their outboard motor boat at high speed right by a fishing crew? Ercole, of course, ten minutes before his official introduction. Confirmed by Kevin Singleton, character rig lead for Luca.
  • Easter Egg:
    • The Pizza Planet Truck appears in the form of a Piaggio Ape so that it doesn't look out-of-place in Portorosso. It can be seen behind Ercole during the downhill portion of the race, after Ercole retrieves his harpoon, but just before Luca and Alberto merge with Ercole on the main downhill street.
    • A113 is the ticket number seen on a train ticket.
    • The Luxo Ball can be seen during the uphill portion of the race. It appears during an overhead shot just after Luca slips by his parents on a patio on the right hand side of the street.
    • A reference to future film Turning Red was included, but, according to the director, "It’s very well hidden and we don’t want to spoil any surprises for Turning Red. So that might be more of a later reveal." It was eventually discovered by a fan with Enrico confirming it, that the music record in Giulia's room is by "4*Villaggi", an Italian parody of the in-universe Boy Band from that film, 4*Town.
    • For the first time in company history, it's averted completely for Pixar's usual living easter egg John Ratzenberger. This is the second film in a row he doesn't provide a voice anywhere in the movie, and unlike in Soul he wasn't paid tribute with a character designed after him.
  • The End: At the end of the film, the Italian word "Fine" appears on the screen, accompanied by its English translation.
  • Epic Fail:
    • After coming to the surface, Lorenzo tries to show how well he can identify his own son by grabbing the first boy he sees and throws him in the water, expecting it to be Luca... which wasn't the case.
    • When Luca first tries to kick a football, it goes completely sideways and hits Ercole's Vespa knocking it over.
  • Et Tu, Brute?: You can hear Alberto's heart break when Luca pretends to be scared of him to hide his own sea monster identity. This leaves him so numb that he doesn't even react to the harpoons thrown at him as he swims away.
  • Evil Is Petty: Ercole, as the evil Jerkass he is, runs the gamut from trying to murder Alberto and Luca with a harpoon or ramming them with his boat down to trying to dunk Luca in the fountain or slapping the back of Giulia's head during the race or kicking Alberto to the ground as he rides by him.
  • Exact Words:
    • After Luca and Alberto volunteer to help Massimo earn money for the race entry fees, the latter asks if they "know fish", wanting to see if they're familiar with fishing. However, Alberto takes it literally and responds with "we know a lot of fish", which is true as they are sea monsters who interact with fish all the time. It turns out that their knowledge of where fish tend to cluster is of great benefit to Massimo.
    • After his harpoon is broken, Ercole yells at his lackeys to get him another one. When they refuse, he calls them idiots and to "be useful for once in [their] pathetic lives". They agree to "be useful", by throwing him in the fountain after they become fed up with his abuse.
  • Eye Am Watching You: Trying to look stern, Luca gives this gesture to the first batch of wayward goatfish he retrieves, warning them to stay put.
  • Face Your Fears: A reoccuring theme of the story is "Silenzio Bruno"—not letting the little voice in your head that plays on your fears and insecurities control what you do. All the major character arcs end with the characters facing their defining fears. Luca willingly exposes himself as a sea monster to the town to save Alberto, Alberto chooses to advocate for Luca's desire to go to school with Giulia in Genova, and Daniela lets her son live on the surface.
  • False Dichotomy: In a fit of jealous impulsiveness, Alberto pushes Luca into one. By revealing himself as a sea monster to Giulia in the middle of his conflict with Luca, Alberto essentially forces Luca to choose between siding with Alberto against the assumedly anti-sea monster Giulia, presumably ending Luca's friendship with her and his hope of going to school with her, or maintaining his friendship with Giulia and the illusion of his humanity by disavowing his connection with the sea monster Alberto. In reality there shouldn't have been a problem with the two friendships existing simultaneously, something Giulia proves with her calm acceptance of Luca's inhumanity in the following scene, but Alberto got jealous and tried to pressure Luca into giving up his friendship with Giulia using this trope, which backfired on him big time when Luca chose the second option.
  • Fantasy-Forbidding Mother: Luca's mother vehemently shuts down his curiosity about the surface world.
    Daniela: The curious fish gets caught. We do not talk, think, discuss, contemplate, or go anywhere near this surface!! Got it?
  • Fantastic Fauna Counterpart: The merfolk herd goatfish that bleat like actual goats, and Luca even uses a shepherd's crook when herding them. They also raise crabs like show dogs.
  • Fantastic Racism: Zig-zagged. The people of Portorosso do not like sea monsters. However, the town's historic, artistic portrayals show them as wild, feral beasts so, for the townsfolk, it's a fear of a dangerous animal like a shark and not a racism analog. For most of the story, the town was never aware of them as a sapient, non-threatening species until Luca and Alberto reveal themselves. Then, there's an initial fear of the unknown from the towns-men but only Ercole directly manifests the trope by disavowing Alberto and Luca's humanity simply because they're different. Fortunately, once Massimo stands by them and affirms them as the winners of the race, all direct opposition melts away and Ercole receives his long deserved comeuppance.
  • Felony Misdemeanor: Luca goes to an otherwise uninhabited island on the surface to have fun with Alberto, a fellow sea monster. In response, his mother tries to send him away with his uncle to live in the tomb-like environment of the deep sea for months. This motivates Luca to run away from home to Portorosso.
  • Fish out of Water: A more literal example than most, as much of the film revolves around Luca and Alberto (who are sea monsters) trying to navigate their way through the human society of Portorosso, in which they are very unfamiliar with.
  • Fish People: The sea monsters are humanoids with fish fins and scales, finned tails, and Ear Fins. One of them who lives in oceanic abyss, resembles an anglerfish and has transparent flesh.
  • Five-Second Foreshadowing:
    • On the test drive when both Alberto and Luca are riding the Vespa, the bike separates into two parts on the way down the hill forcing Luca to tightly hug Alberto to hold it together so they can launch off the ramp. After a few seconds of airborne bliss, they plummet straight toward a large boulder jutting out of the water. Luca takes advantage of the Vespa's fragile state by kicking away Alberto, causing their vehicle to split again so Luca lands safely in the water behind the boulder while Alberto lands safely in front.
    • With a bit of Genius Bonus: Early in the film, someone in a diving suit corners Luca, causing him to panic. Members of the audience familiar with how these old suits work will quickly notice there's no air hose attached to the helmet running up to the surface, indicating that whoever's inside can breath underwater and isn't human. It turns out to be Alberto, a sea monster just like Luca, who was only pulling a prank. invoked
  • Flat "What": When Massimo catches Alberto looking at his missing arm:
    Massimo: A sea monster ate it!
    Alberto: [dumbfounded] Uh... what?
    Massimo: [chuckles] Ma, no. This is how I came into the world.
  • Food Porn: All the pasta looks really delicious, especially the "trenette al pesto". Soon after the film was released, Disney and Pixar revealed the recipe on Instagram.
  • Four-Fingered Hands: Luca and Alberto have only four digits when they're in their sea monster forms. However, they have five fingers while in their human forms.
  • Fourth Wall Psych: The Stinger has Uncle Ugo appearing to talk to the audience but it is then revealed to be talking to a fish.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • When Luca's grandma tells her grandson about the surface, she claims that she won a game of cards with a person, foreshadowing her reveal near the film's conclusion that she visits Portorosso on the weekends.
    • Alberto gets caught in the fishing boat's net in the opening scene, setting up how Ercole will use a net to try to capture him after Alberto is revealed as a sea monster to the town.
    • Ercole sets out to find and kill a sea monster upon hearing that there's a reward for it, setting up his attempt to intentionally kill both Alberto and Luca at the end of the film.
    • While Luca and Alberto test out their custom-made Vespa, it breaks in half mid-air before they reach in the water. When they resurface, each boy is on opposite sides of a rock. Foreshadowing their falling out.
    • During Luca's Imagine Spot when Alberto first tells him about the stars in the sky being fish, when Luca actually succeeds in touching the 'Big Fish' (the moon), it turns into a Catapult Nightmare, with Alberto vanishing and the fish dissolving into water that rains down on Luca and uncontrollably turns him back into his sea monster form, before he plunges into darkness. Finding out the truth about the stars and the moon being celestial bodies from Giulia, a.k.a. 'Touching the Moon', is the first time Luca starts to realize that Alberto is a Know-Nothing Know-It-All, and marks the start of the schism that results in their friendship falling apart. During the climax, rain also proves to put Luca and Alberto into mortal danger, as it forces them into their true forms uncontrollably whilst they're in the middle of town, surrounded by scared Townsfolk.
  • Freak Out: When Alberto pulls him out of the water for the first time, Luca panics as he goes through "the change" and watches his body turn human. He rolls on the shore and screams "Help me!" while shielding his eyes.
    Alberto: First time?
    Luca: OF COURSE IT IS!! [whimpers] I'm a good kid!
  • Funny Background Event: A blink-and-miss-it moment, but when Ercole enters the town he circles the fountain and passes by the Aragosta sisters telling them "Ciao, belle!". Unimpressed, they both glare at him as he passes by with Concetta adding a "Blech" for good measure.
  • Get A Hold Of Yourself Man: A water glass variant; after Alberto reveals himself to Giulia and Luca betrays him, both are shocked by what just happened and, once they return to Guila's home, Luca starts freaking out about what this will mean for the race. Luca's frantic rambling prompts Giulia to splash him with a glass of water to get him back to his senses. However, Luca's hands get wet in the process which reveals his identity to Giulia.
  • Glamour Failure: Any body parts of a transformed sea monster that gets wet will involuntarily revert to its monster form until it dries.
  • Gratuitous Italian: Being set in Italy, Italian words are often used for flavor. Giulia in particular tends to drop a lot of Italian words into her speech.
  • Group Hug: At first, Guila hugs both Luca and Alberto without knowing that they have a fight. The hug immediately breaks off because of the bitter moment. The second time has Guila hugs both Luca and Alberto, but this time have both Luca and Alberto accept it.
  • Hand Gagging: When Alberto tries to use the "What's wrong with you stupido" phrase on Massimo, Luca is quick to cover his mouth before he can insult Giulia's threatening father.
  • Hated by All: Ercole is a selfish narcissistic bully. The only people who hang out with him willingly are his henchmen, and even they seem reluctant to go along with his whims. This culminates in them turning against him at the end of the film.
  • Hate Sink: At no point does the movie try to portray Ercole as anything other than the obnoxious bully and Smug Snake disliked by everyone in town that he is, nor does he ever see the error of his ways (which leads to him getting humiliated by his own lackeys Ciccio and Guido).
  • Handbag of Hurt: After Luca accidentally insults Concetta and Pinuccia with the "What's wrong with you stupido" phrase, Concetta whacks Luca on the head with her handbag.
  • Hope Spot: Played with. During the race, Luca finds he's stuck under an awning during a rainstorm. But not too far off, Alberto comes up the hill with a big blue umbrella in tow, giving the audience hope that the two will have shelter from the rain and be able to finish the race without getting wet... but then, Ercole rides by and kicks Alberto to the ground, knocking the umbrella free and exposing Alberto to the rain.
  • Humanshifting: The sea monsters shift to human form when on dry land.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: Played with. In Portorosso, humans and sea monsters don't really interact for the most part and the citizens of the town basically react out of fear of the unknown when Luca and Alberto are first revealed. Only Ercole seems to fit the trope in a straightforward way, being a vain and overbearing bully who refuses to see Luca and Alberto as people.
  • I Choose to Stay: At the end of the story both Luca and Alberto choose to remain part of the surface world. Luca explores his desire to learn by going to school with Giulia. Alberto, although he's not joining Luca in Genova, decides to stay in Portorosso with Massimo.
  • Imagine Spot:
    • A number of them occur in the movie to give the audience a glimpse into Luca's thoughts, hopes and vivid imagination. There's one where he rides/flies around the world on a Vespa, and another with him running around Saturn's rings and flying on da Vinci's airplane with Giulia.
    • Subverted with the sequence where he and Alberto ride a ramp into space to touch the Moon Fish. It starts out like all of his Imagine Spots but when Luca touches the Moon Fish, Alberto disappears, the "Moon" starts to melt. Luca ends up turning back into sea monster form and falling all the way back to Earth where it's revealed to actually be a Catapult Nightmare and Luca realizes he fell asleep and is very late in getting home.
  • Irony:
    • Because Alberto gets jealous over Giulia bonding with Luca, whom he sees as his Only Friend, Alberto fails to notice that Giulia also clearly wants to be his friend or that he, himself, is actively bonding with Massimo.
    • Daniela spends half the movie splashing and soaking Portorosso's children to see if any of them are Luca in his human form. The second she actually lays eyes on Luca, however, she recognizes her son instantly.
    • At the climax, when Luca and Alberto are exposed as sea monsters, Ercole declares that everybody in Portorosso is scared and disgusted by these two, calling them monsters. And yet, Ercole himself has been acting as the true monster with his heartless bullying and trying to kill Luca and Alberto with a harpoon.
  • Italians Talk with Hands: Many characters have moments of gesticulating wildly when trying to make a point, but Ercole and Giulia, both being distinctively hammy and energetic, emphasize just about every sentence with their hands, how some Italians actually do. Giulia in particular often does the classic Italian "pinched fingers" gesture.
  • Jabba Table Manners: Having no concept of human norms, when given plates of pasta Luca and Alberto's first instinct is to scarf it into their mouths using their bare hands, much to the bemusement of Giulia and Massimo. They slowly learn better table manners over the course of the movie.
  • Just the Introduction to the Opposites: The opening scene is of human fishermen being spooked by a sighting of a sea monster in their boat. In a later scene, Luca is being warned by his mother to be wary of "land monsters" driving by in their boats.
  • Juxtaposed Halves Shot: A lot of the movie's promotional art highlights the shapeshifting premise by featuring some part of Luca and/or Alberto above the water while the rest of their body is submerged. The page image and this poster demonstrate that the boys straddle two worlds by showing them as both human and sea-monster.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Not only does Ercole not win the race thanks to Giulia running her bike into his, but his own lackeys get sick of his constant abuse and throw him in the fountain.
  • Liar Revealed: Surprisingly averted. After his and Alberto's falling out, Guilia discovers the truth that Luca is (also) a sea monster. But she's not mad at either of them for deceiving her, but more at the fact that of all places to explore, they chose a town that actively hunts sea monsters, putting their lives at risk.
    Giulia: "Sleeping under the fish"! Now I get it!!
    Luca: (stammering) I-I can explain…
    Giulia: Of all the places for sea monsters to visit, Portorosso?! Have you seen this town?! My dad hunts sea monsters!
  • Limited Wardrobe:
    • Most of the cast wear the exact same outfits the entire week they spend in Portorosso. It's justified for the sea monsters since they're wearing literally the only human clothes they own (with most of it being scavenged or stolen), but no one else changes their clothes that week either. Giulia wears the most variety but even then it's just the one striped shirt and patchy jeans combo, her bathing suit, and the nicer outfit she wears at the week's end when boarding the train back to Genova.
    • Played both straight and subverted in the credits depending on the character; most of the characters in Portorosso don't change their clothes with the exception of Alberto, who mostly wears his clothes from the film but also appears once in a longer pair of pants and a shirt with sleeves and a lifeguard uniform, and Massimo, who is seen wearing a dive suit. However, Luca and Giulia are seen in their classic Portorosso outfits, in their school uniforms, in winter clothes while window shopping, and in a variety of casual clothes around Giulia's mother's house.
  • Lonely Together: While Luca and Alberto have opposite personalities, the one thing they share together is that feeling of loneliness. While Luca has his family with him, he expresses his dissatisfaction with his family's uptight rules. Alberto has been living on his own for over a year without a friend in the world until he met Luca. When they do meet, they bond and share a common goal of traveling the world.
  • Magic Pants: Luca and Alberto transform from sea monster to human several times, with their tails coming and going. Their pants are always perfectly intact.
  • Malicious Misnaming: Ercole calls Giulia "Spewlia" after the last Portorosso Cup where she threw up after the pasta section of it, much to her ire.
  • Man Bites Man: During their fight at the beach, Alberto bites Luca's fingers.
  • Masquerade: Luca and Alberto avoid showing their true form to humans, owing to the town having a history of slaying sea-monsters.
  • Meaningful Echo: When they first try out their custom-made Vespa, Alberto teaches Luca the words "Silenzio, Bruno" in order to help him overcome his insecurities. When Alberto bemoans that Luca's better off without him because he is the "kid who ruins everything", Luca tells him "Silenzio, Bruno" using those same words to try and lift Alberto's spirit.
  • Missed Him by That Much: Daniela and Lorenzo come to Portorosso looking for Luca but realize it's going to be more difficult than they first thought when they see dozens of children in the town plaza. As they venture forward to begin their search, it turns out that Luca, Alberto and Giulia run up some steps behind them so they miss each other by just a couple yards.
  • Moment of Weakness:
    • Alberto's New Friend Envy towards Luca and Giulia is enhanced by his abandonment issues. With tensions running high after their bike crash into the sea, Alberto lashes out at Luca and makes the impulsive decision to reveal himself as a sea monster to Giulia specifically to shoot down Luca's hopes of going to school with her and recapture his position as Luca's only friend.
    • After Alberto shows Giulia his true form, Luca is not ready to give up the human world and pretends to be as shocked as Giulia calling him a sea monster. Upon seeing Alberto's hurt look, he feels absolutely horrible and spends the rest of the scene with his hands over his mouth.
  • Mood Whiplash: The rather tense scene where Luca meets Uncle Ugo takes a small comedic turn when Ugo begins gasping for breath due to being in low-pressure water.
  • Morphic Resonance: Luca, Alberto, and other sea monsters retain some basic traits when they shapeshift into humans. Not only does their body type and head shape remain the same, but also their hair in human form has the same basic shape as the fins on their heads in sea monster form (and the fins on Lorenzo's face also become a mustache when human), and they still retain their eye colors.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: When Alberto reveals his sea monster form to Giulia, Luca protects his own secret and pretends to be scared of Alberto. The moment he sees the hurt look on Alberto's eyes, Luca covers his mouth and you can clearly see he regrets his action.
    • It's implied Alberto got hit with this as well, as when Luca goes back to him, he laments that Luca is "the good kid" while he himself is "the kid that ruins everything", suggesting he's been reflecting on the poor influence he had on his friend.

    Tropes N-Z 
  • Never Trust a Trailer:
    • The first trailer makes it look like Concetta and Pinuccia Aragosta are suspicious of Luca's and Alberto's true nature. The second trailer portrays them as just angry because Luca accidentally insulted them. The end of the movie reveals that they too are sea monsters.
    • The various trailers and clips released before the movie show scenes like Luca accidentally confessing to his parents he went to the surface, Luca running on the rings of Saturn, and Luca flying through Rome using da Vinci's airplane. These scenes are indeed in the movie, but they're all part of Luca's various Imagine Spots.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: It's shown that Ercole's attempts to cheat at the race backfire on him. Putting oil on Ciccio causes sardines to attack him, while Guido gets sick from eating spaghetti, with another participant calling for the ref because he's cheating. Then he chases down Alberto and Luca with murderous intent, completely oblivious to the fact that it motivates them to cross the finish line first.
  • Nice Mean And In Between: Between the three most prominent boy characters in this movie, we have: gentle, soft-spoken Luca (nice), arrogant and intimidating Jerkass Ercole (mean) and sarcastic but friendly Know-Nothing Know-It-All Alberto (in-between)
  • No Cartoon Fish: A downplayed version: Luca is seen herding a school of cartoony-looking goatfish that serve as the underwater equivalent to, well, goats. However, in later scenes where fish are caught and prepared for food, they look more realistic, such as the ones Massimo is preparing in his kitchen when Luca and Alberto first meet him.
  • Not Evil, Just Misunderstood: Though the Portorosso citizens have a history of slaying the local sea monsters, they regard them as vicious and hostile, but not sapient. Their opinion begins to change towards the end of the film when Massimo declares Luca and Alberto the winners of the Portorosso Cup.
  • The Not-Love Interest: Alberto and Giulia to Luca. The film keeps it platonic between all parties involved, but the story is all about Luca's relationship with the two of them and how they help each other grow.
  • Not So Above It All: Massimo frowns upon the two boys' Jabba Table Manners and eating pasta with their hands. But while he's alone preparing pasta, he rolls up a ball of pasta himself and eats it, with only Machiavelli witnessing it.
  • Obscured Special Effects: Played with. The film contains many gorgeous scenes of Alberto and Luca transforming back and forth from human to sea monster showing detailed shifting of their skin and hair. One exception is their tails. While many times the tail is off-screen, when it's visible it's not so much that the effect is obscured or the transformation is implied but literally the tail just disappears. One frame it is there and it's gone by the next.
  • The Only One Allowed to Defeat You: Giulia tells Luca and Alberto that nobody's allowed to defeat Ercole but her.
  • Opposites Attract: Luca, being quiet and reserved, befriends the more loud, and reckless Alberto, and their dynamic flows very well.
  • Our Mermaids Are Different: The humanoid sea monsters are a take on mer-folk but have two legs and a tail. When they are not wet, by leaving the ocean or leaping high out of the water, they take a human form.
  • "Pan Up to the Sky" Ending: The film ends with the train heading toward Genova with a pan up to the partly cloudy skies breaking up to let the sun shine through, indicating a bright future in store.
  • Parasol of Pain: After Luca accidentally insults Concetta and Pinuccia with the "What's wrong with you stupido" phrase, Pinuccia whacks Alberto on the head with her umbrella.
  • Parental Abandonment: For reasons that will most likely never be known, Alberto's father abandoned him on the island where Luca first meets Alberto, claiming that he was "old enough to live on [his] own". We aren't told how long ago this happened, let alone his actual intentions, but the tally marks Alberto made on the wall indicate over a year plus we don't know how long it's been since he stopped counting.
  • Pastiche: The film has been described as one of the best Studio Ghibli films not actually made by Ghibli. It helps that many of the Luca staff have openly admitted to being influenced by Miyazaki's films when making it.
  • Period Piece: Going by only what is shown in the main film, the movie posters, songs and technology set the time period between late 1950s and the 1960s. If one accepts every drawing shown during the end credits as canon (even the pencil ones), then one drawing appears to depict characters watching a broadcast of the 1969 Moon Landing on an old-fashioned tube television, and that would set the main story in the late 60s (probably 1968 or 1969).
  • Phantom Limb Pain: Sea monsters turn into humans and their tail disappears when dry. The first time he transforms, Luca says he can still feel his tail, but Alberto tells him it's just phantom tail and he'll get used to it.
  • Plot-Mandated Friendship Failure: Alberto becomes jealous of Luca and Giulia's growing friendship. After a heated argument, Alberto intentionally reveals his identity as a sea monster to Giulia, freaking her out. However, Luca, unwilling to show his true identity, pretends to be afraid of Alberto, leaving him to retreat to his hideout, heartbroken by the act of betrayal.
  • Prefers Going Barefoot: Of the "Often goes without shoes, but does not mind them" variety. While both Luca and Alberto mostly go barefoot, likely because of their sea monster status, they both wear wellington boots while fishing with Massimo and Luca wears school shoes while at school during the ending credits. A few other people in the village walk around barefoot because of the closeness to the sea and the beach. It's not uncommon, during Summer in Cinque Terre, for people to briefly leave the beach and have a walk in town without footwear.
  • Reality Has No Subtitles: Throughout the film, several characters speak Italian without any translation.
  • Rejected Apology: When Luca attempts to apologize to Alberto for siding with the humans and pretending to be afraid of the outed Alberto out of fear of his sea monster identity being revealed, Alberto, still heartbroken and angry at him, rejects his apology and coldly tells him to get out. It isn't until the climax that Alberto finally comes around and forgives Luca.
    Alberto: Yeah, whatever, you're sorry! Now, just go away!
  • Rewatch Bonus:
    • When Alberto first pulls Luca out of the water, he panics but Alberto calms him down. Despite a moment of fascination with the surface world, Luca's guilt kicks in and he rolls back into the water to swim away. The scene cuts to Alberto which very briefly shows him with a sad slightly forlorn look on his face over Luca's departure. Then Alberto notices he still has Luca's staff and rolls his eyes. The remainder of the scene plays out with Alberto as his aloof, confident self.
    • The first time Luca tries to ride the bike downhill, he crashes with floating fish around his head and you can see that he passes a yellow house in the background that is occupied by Concetta and Pinuccia Aragosta. Concetta is outside sweeping in front of the house while, Pinuccia looks out a window. Apparently they have 5 cats that live with them and this shows that they rent or own a house in Portorosso and are intent on living there.
    • Giulia only has one bike so when Luca decides to split the team, he needs his own bike. When Luca and Alberto first arrive at Portorosso underwater and pause beside the sunken boat they'll use to sneak ashore, there's bike on the seafloor to their right. This is the bike Luca uses for the race. He apparently retrieves it just before asking Signora Marsigliese, the race coordinator, if they can split up the team because his bike is still dripping water at that point.
  • Roofhopping: More like roof strolling, but when Giulia learns that Luca thinks stars are fish, she invites him to see old man Bernardi's telescope. The two then spend several minutes traversing Portorosso by rooftop until they reach his balcony.
  • A Rotten Time to Revert: Sea monsters can shapeshift into humans, but involuntarily revert back to their sea monster forms whenever they get wet. Luca and Alberto, while pretending to be human in Portorosso, spend much of the movie trying not to get any water on them. During the last stretch of the Portorosso Cup just as Luca is biking to the finish, it starts to rain, forcing him to hide under a shop awning to avoid getting wet. Luckily, Alberto suddenly appears at that moment with an umbrella... only for Ercole to ride by and kick him directly into the rain and expose him as a sea monster in front of the townsfolk.
  • Rousseau Was Right: While the various humans of Portorosso believe in and fear sea monsters, they are quick to drop this attitude when they see that they are just people instead of the image of beasts their culture had cultivated. The only exception to this is Ercole who has already been functioning as the story's Hate Sink.
  • Running Gag:
    • Giulia will exclaim "Santa/o..." followed by the name of a cheese. (Ex: "Santa mozzarella!", "Santo gorgonzola!", etc.)
    • After coming to land, Luca's parents spend most of their time soaking the local kids with water, thinking one of them might be Luca. This leads the kids to be downright terrified of them.
  • Secret Message Wink: As Giulia boards the train to Genova, she and Alberto exchange winks, which tips the audience off about two things: they've reconciled after fighting over Luca, and they've secretly arranged for him to join her at school, but he doesn't know yet.
  • Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: Alberto suffers from New Friend Envy throughout Act 2, owing to his abandonment issues over his father leaving him. Afraid that Luca will abandon him for Giulia, Alberto becomes sullen and withdrawn during many of the Act 2 training scenes. After Alberto and Luca crash the bike into the ocean this leads to a fight about Luca going to school with Giulia. At the peak of their conflict and to prove his point, Alberto intentionally decides to expose himself to Giulia to show Luca that, as a sea monster, he will never be accepted by the "land monsters" so he will give up on school. Unfortunately, this leads to Luca choosing to hold onto his desire to explore the world and go to school by condemning Alberto as a sea monster by pretending he's human and suddenly afraid of Alberto. Although Luca immediately regrets his decision, Alberto's actions result in driving Luca away instead of bringing them closer.
  • Short Screentime for Reality: Inverted. Luca's home "town" receives little screen time. It is made up of Luca's family cove, and a few reefs that are used as sheep-fish herding fields and portrayed in muted colors of predominately blue and green. On the other hand, the surface town of Portorosso is a vibrant, colorful, densely populated Italian village.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The book that Giulia and Luca are reading is The Adventures of Pinocchio. Pinocchio, the Fox, and the Cat can also be seen in a Disney Acid Sequence.
    • One of the posters at the plaza is for Disney's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.
    • It is unclear if Portorosso gets its name from the Ligurian town of Monterosso, one of the "Cinque Terre" or from Porco Rosso as Director Enrico Casarosa is a big fan of Hayao Miyazaki.
    • The main square is called Piazza Calvino, borrowing the name from the famous Italian writer Italo Calvino (who was alive at the time the film is set so it's unlikely the square name is more than an homage.)
    • Italo Calvino returns also in the surname of Giulia, which is Marcovaldo, who is the protagonist of a famous cycle of short stories by Calvino.
    • A movie poster in a street is shown for the late Federico Fellini's La Strada. A boat seen at the beginning also bears the name Gelsomina, after the main character from that film.
    • In a later scene there's also a movie poster for Creature from the Black Lagoon.
    • The cat's name is Machiavelli, as of a certain writer and philosopher Niccolò Machiavelli. During the credits sequence, a dog shown to be living with Giulia's mom is named Nerone (spelling of Nero in Italian), and the tortoise seemingly adopted by Massimo and Alberto is named Caligola (spelling of Caligula in Italian).
    • Various depictions of sea monsters around the town reminds of the way Renaissance painters depicted strange fishes and sea monsters.
    • The bully's name is Ercole Visconti, as in director Luchino Visconti. Though nothing's been confirmed, his first name could also be a reference to Ercole Baldini, a retired Italian cyclist whose career was short-lived.
    • Given the Italian setting, there are multiple references to opera in the movie: the lone fisherman by the beach where Luca and Alberto sneak under a boat is twice heard humming the tune of Giuseppe Verdi's "La donna è mobile (Woman is fickle)" from Rigoletto and while in his kitchen, Massimo sings along to the famous arias "Largo al Factotum" and "Una voce poco fa" from Gioachino Rossini's The Barber of Seville. The record player that Alberto finds in the ocean and fixes plays "O mio babbino caro" from Gianni Schicchi.
    • A poster for Roman Holiday is prominently displayed in the background while Luca, Alberto and Giulia are talking about the triathlon.
    • A minor character is briefly seen watching the Italian film classic Big Deal on Madonna Street on a tiny TV.
    • The creators have said that the transformation effect of the sea monsters changing to human is inspired by some Miyazaki films as well as Mystique's shapeshifting in X-Men.
    • The "Piacere Girolamo Trombetta" line (said by Alberto to Luca) is a nod to how kids used to greet each other in the Italian town where director Enrico Casarosa grew up.
    • The man in the picture that serves as Alberto's 'reflection' in the 'side mirror' of his and Luca's handmade Vespa is Italian actor Marcello Mastroianni. Alberto even references Mastroianni's famous role from the film Divorce Italian Style by imitating Fefè's "thch" Character Tic.
    • As Giulia rides away with the boys, Ercole jokes that they're starting "a club for losers!" Notable since Alberto's VA was in that book's film adaptation.
  • Shut Up, Kirk!: During the climax and their final confrontation with Ercole, Alberto and Luca steel themselves, with Luca declaring "We're not afraid of you!" In response, Ercole points out that the surrounding townsfolk are afraid and disgusted of them for being sea monsters. Luca noticeably loses his new-found confidence for a moment at hearing this.
  • Skewed Priorities: Discussed and lampshaded by Giulia when she learns Alberto and Luca are both "sea monsters". She can't understand why they would risk their lives to come to Portorosso for a Vespa of all things. Subverted with Alberto and Luca in that the Vespa had grown to have a deeper meaning for them. At first it represents freedom which for Luca meant not having to go to the deep with his uncle, a fate he feels is worse than death. After their Plot-Mandated Friendship Failure, Luca saw winning the Vespa as a way to reconcile with Alberto and was more than willing to risk being exposed in the race in order to put things right with his friend.
  • Something Only They Would Say: Daniela uses her "soccer skills" to "innocently knock" children into the plaza fountain. To celebrate she does her dolphin imitation which Luca overhears and he turns to see that his parents are in Portorosso looking for him.
  • Spit Take:
    • Played for Drama when Massimo uses a knife to pin (stab) a picture of a sea monster (implied to be Alberto) into a corkboard, and Luca spits out his water in shock. Unfortunately, he thus ends up splashing Alberto, triggering his transformation. Luckily, they were able to cover the transformation up before Massimo and Giulia notice.
    • Played for Laughs when Lorenzo spits out his bite of lunch when Luca asks where boats come from because it now requires a talk about the "land monster" town.
  • Stealth Pun: Giulia's catchphrase is sometimes "santa mozzarella" or "santa ricotta". In other words, "holy cheeses".
  • The Stinger: Uncle Ugo is back home where he complains out loud about people saying he's insane to live in the deep, but he thinks otherwise and considers it a nice life. He says all this to one of Luca's fishes that he was herding at the beginning of the movie and it looks utterly freaked out.
  • Stumbling in the New Form: When Luca first transforms from a sea monster to a human, he has to learn how to walk before he can do anything else.
  • Sweet and Sour Grapes:
    • When Luca and Alberto go to Portorosso, their initial goal is to get a Vespa so they can travel the world together, and they enter the Portorosso Cup with Giulia so they can win the prize money to buy one. By the time they get the Vespa, they've both come to realize the most important thing is really their bond with one another. As a result, Alberto sells it to get Luca the train ticket to Genova so he can go to school with Giulia.
    • It also happens twice over in the climax. Luca bicycles into the rain (exposing himself in the process) so he could rescue a netted Alberto. The two decide winning the Portorosso Cup for a Vespa isn't worth their lives or their friendship and choose to get back to the water instead. At some point, they see that Giulia purposefully crashed into Ercole to save their lives, and go back to help her up. Although they risk getting killed by Ercole (or at least the other fishermen), their selfless actions are two-fold rewarded. First, helping Giulia convinces Massimo that Luca and Alberto are still the boys he's come to trust, and defend them from hunters. Second, in trying to reach the water, Luca and Alberto unwittingly crossed the finish line by the time they went back to help Giulia.
  • Symbolism:
    • The drawing of Alberto and Luca riding a Vespa reflects the growth and health of their friendship throughout the film. It starts as a simple drawing in black and white. After many days in Portorosso, the drawing is now in color with many additions added to the sketch based on their experiences there. This also indicates the first schism in their friendship as Luca suggests adding a telescope and Alberto modifies it to shoot lighting to Luca's annoyance. After their falling out, Luca discovers the drawing has been torn in two by Alberto reflecting the current damage to their friendship. During the denouement, as Luca gets ready to board the train, Alberto gives him the drawing, now taped back together, to remember him by and showing they've mended their friendship.
    • Luca's last name means Hermit Crab. During the race, he wears a helmet on his head and when it starts to rain he achieves safety under a small awning. When he sees Alberto lying on the ground in a net exposed to the town, Luca decides to ride out into the rain, losing his helmet, and revealing his true self. He is essentially breaking out of his shell to save his friend.
    • Alberto's island represents his unwillingness to accept his father's abandonment and move on. Until he meets Luca, he remained on the island in his hideout in the hopes that one day, his father would return. Towards the end of the story, Luca is concerned that his friend will be okay if he leaves. Alberto responds with...
      Alberto: You got me off the island, Luca. I'm okay.
    • As Luca enters a new phase in his life, it is fitting that his train goes through a tunnel right at the start. He looks back at Alberto for as long as he can, but the tunnel eventually cuts off that view, he emerges from the tunnel and turns to face forward, ready to embrace his new adventure at school.
  • Take My Hand!: Played straight at first when Luca is on his bike and approaches Alberto lying on ground intending to rescue him from Ercole. There's a slow motion shot of Luca then Alberto each reaching their hands toward each other. Once hand contact is made, however, it's played for laughs as Luca apparently has an iron grip so he zooms by Alberto and drags him along for the next few frames.
  • Team Hand-Stack: The Underdogs do this as they prepare for the race.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Sandwich:
    • At the beginning of the film, we see Luca's daily routine of taking the goat fish out to graze, hearing a boat pass overhead, then being called for lunch. What follows is a two minute conversation about beating the Branzino's at the crab show, then Luca asking where boats from come which leads to a volatile exchange between Luca and his mom, Daniela, when Grandma Paguro starts talking about the land monster town. To stave off Luca's curiosity, Daniela shuts down further conversation by handing Luca a single kelp "dumpling" as she sweeps him out the door having never touched his lunch.
    • As a literal running gag, Ciccio and Guido continue to have huge sandwiches at the ready for Ercole but he never even takes a bite. Mostly, he kicks or throws them in frustration. This begins to take its toll for after Luca and Alberto crash into the sea, we see Ercole and his gang out looking for sea monsters. When Ercole kicks yet another sandwich from Ciccio's hands, Guido can be seen delivering him a Disapproving Look.
  • Thinks of Something Smart, Says Something Stupid: In what is later revealed to be a Fantasy Sequence, Luca's mother asks him where he's been. He thinks, "Don't say surface, don't say surface..." but then casually blurts out, "Surface."
  • A Tragedy of Impulsiveness: While in conflict with Luca about their goals for the human world, an already upset Alberto chooses to expose himself as a Sea Monster in front of Giulia, clearly presuming Luca will side with him in the conflict that ensues and that this will derail Giulia's and Luca's friendship. The time between this idea occurring to him and him acting on it appears to be mere seconds, so he clearly didn't have time to think through the possible consequences. What actually results is Luca, obviously not ready for exposure, deciding not to follow Alberto into the bad situation Alberto has just created and instead pretending to be afraid to maintain his own cover, leaving Alberto alone to his self-exposure as a sea monster just as Ercole, Ciccio, and Guido happen to show up with harpoons.
  • Training Montage: Alberto practices eating pasta, while Luca practices riding a bike.
  • Train-Station Goodbye: Played with. Although usually done as a lover's goodbye, it's portrayed in this film as an homage to the train station scene from Fellini's I Vitelloni. At the train station, Luca learns he can go with Giulia to school, leading to a heartfelt good-bye with Alberto who is staying behind with Massimo until Luca returns in the summer. As the train starts to leave, Alberto runs along side until he reaches the end of the station then jumps out onto the ground yelling congratulations and encouragements to Luca as he pulls out of sight.
  • Translation Convention: The movie takes place in Italy, but every character speaks English with a smattering of Italian.
  • Truth in Television: Ugo says that there's too much oxygen where Luca and his parents live after struggling to catch his breath. In real life, fish who live in the deep sea (such as the anglerfish which Ugo is clearly based on) cannot survive in low-pressure water.
  • Two Guys and a Girl: Luca, Alberto and Giulia are the platonic, pre-pubescent manifestation of this trope.
  • Uncatty Resemblance: Machiavelli, the Marcovaldos' pet cat, looks very similar to Massimo; their faces are roughly the same shape and Machiavelli's upper lip looks almost exactly like Massimo's mustache.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: It's implied from the old fisherman's skepticism in the opening that Portorosso's modern-day fishermen don't actually believe in sea monsters. However, Alberto stealing from their boats led to sightings and blurred pictures of him that push the authorities in Portorosso to post a reward for the capture of the creature, sparking Ercole's desire to kill one.
  • Vertigo Effect: After the boys finish their first handmade Vespa, Alberto asks Luca if he's ready to ride it. Luca looks down at the rock outcropping they'd be launching off of and a dolly zoom effect kicks in as Luca realizes the drop and danger they'd be facing when they ride down the hill. Luca immediately declines and becomes the ramp holder.
  • Walking Shirtless Scene: Most of the male sea monsters are bare chested in their native underwater environment. Luca starts off that way, but shortly after meeting Alberto (who wears a t-shirt), Luca puts on a button-down shirt that he wears for the remainder of the film.
  • Water-Triggered Change: Apparently, all sea monsters will automatically transform into a human form when they are dry and will resume their sea monster appearance when they are exposed to water. Even if it's just a portion of their body that gets wet, that portion will revert.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: Goatfish seem to be a stand-in for actual goats, though they seem to understand Luca just fine. The boys both enthusiastically help Massimo with fishing and are not particularly disturbed by him cutting up fish to eat.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: The end credits portray what the characters are up to by the end of the film such as Luca's life in Genova with Giulia and her mother, as well as attending school. Same goes for Alberto who decides to stay in Portorosso with Giulia's father, Massimo, and is shown helping him at the pescheria. It also shows Luca and Alberto regularly exchanging letters.
  • The World Is Just Awesome: One night as Alberto is out helping Massimo, Giulia is left talking with Luca. She corrects many of Luca's misunderstandings like the stars are fish which leads to her showing him Saturn through a telescope. Later she shows Luca her schoolbooks and he is fascinated by what he reads about astronomy, history, and literature. He becomes interested in attending school himself to learn more.



Since Luca has no experience on land, his new friend Alberto shows him how to walk.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (8 votes)

Example of:

Main / StumblingInTheNewForm

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