You can’t have too many musical montages in Luca, the spectacular new film from Disney-Pixar that doubles up as a cruel reminder that there will be no Italian vacations for you in the immediate future. Not unless you mask up and get that vaccine.

Set in a sleepy seaside town in the Italian riviera and directed by a man whose almost comically authentic-sounding name (Enrico Casarosa) overcompensates for his lack of feature directing experience, Luca doesn’t have the emotional wallop of some of the studio’s earlier work, but is still miles ahead of most toxic entertainment geared towards kids these days. Inspired equally by the films of Federico Fellini and Hayao Miyazaki, Luca is a lot like its protagonist — a hybrid.

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Watch the Luca trailer here:

On the surface, it’s the sort of wholesome American entertainment that audiences have grown to expect from Pixar, but the undercurrent of sadness that runs through most of the studio’s films has been replaced by a fountain of optimism. It’s no wonder that Luca is in many ways about the fleeting nature of youth, and the importance of nostalgia. It's also a less-strange version of The Shape of Water, but let's not get into that.

Jacob Tremblay and his Canadian accent star as the titular Luca, a young sea monster who discovers that he can transform into a human being if he ventures above the surface. But the town of Portorosso is a dangerous place, whose inhabitants have long harboured a deep-rooted fear of the sea-dwellers, although they haven't ever really seen any. It’s this sight-unseen prejudice against the ‘other’ that makes Luca a film of great relevance.

On one adventurous trip to the surface, Luca meets Alberto, a runaway sea monster who has been living by himself in a crumbly old lighthouse. They bond instantly. Soon, Luca and Alberto are solving the mysteries of the universe, making purchases mere moments after being introduced to the concept of money, and together dreaming of one day owning the most alluring of all manmade artefacts: a shiny Vespa.

It’ll be a means of escape — from a life of oppression, of fear, and of being demonised by men and women who don’t even know them. Luca and Alberto decide that the only thing left for them to do is to somehow make enough money to buy themselves a ticket out of town. So they befriend a local girl named Giulia, and before they know it, they’re eating pasta dinners at her home and preparing to participate in the annual triathlon.