02nd Sep2019

‘Leo Da Vinci: Mission Mona Lisa’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Johnny Yong Bosch, Cherami Leigh, Bryce Papenbrook, Faith Graham, Landen Beattie, Michael Sorich, Keith Silverstein, Jamieson Price, Darrel Guilbeau | Written by Anna Manfio, Francesco Manfio, Sergio Manfio, Davide Stefanato | Directed by Sergio Manfio

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Life is idyllic in the quiet town of Vinci. The young genius inventor, Leo da Vinci (voiced by Power Ranger Johnny Yong Bosch), is continuously tinkering and testing his inventions with a little help from his best friends, Lorenzo (Bryce Papenbrook) and Lisa (Cherami Leigh). On their return from an outing to a nearby lake, the trio has a shocking surprise: Lisa’s family home has mysteriously burst into flames and, to make matters worse, the odious landlord is demanding that her father repay his debts in full – or agree to have Lisa marry his despicable son. Determined to raise the money Lisa needs, Leo takes his paintings and heads with Lorenzo and Lisa to the nearest big city, Florence, to either sell them or try to get work from a local master. In the town center, they happen upon a mysterious storyteller who not only tells a tale of hidden treasure but has a one-of-a-kind treasure map that he is willing to sell. Could this be the solution to Lisa’s troubles?

During their quest for the treasure, Lisa, Lorenzo and Leo are helped by a little girl, Agnes (Faith Graham), a fearless and resourceful street orphan, and Niccolò (Landen Beattie), a little Polish boy who has taught himself all there is to know about the stars and constellations. Soon, our young heroes realize that they are not the only ones on this quest – a group of sinister pirates follows their every move with the intent of stealing the treasure for themselves.

It’s always hard to watch kids animated movies and NOT compare them to the output of Disney, Pixar and Illumination but Disney – and their cash-cow soundtrack division – needn’t be worried, Leo Da Vinci: Mission Mona Lisa may be a fun kids film but I doubt even the smallest, most easily influenced kid will be singing this films theme song that talks about not knowing what a bicycle is but then mentions mobile phones!

For adults the fun about Leo Da Vinci: Mission Mona Lisa is seeing how the filmmakers have weaved the actual real-life inventions and ideas of Leonardo Da Vinci into this film. Of course the filmmakers have taken some liberties – this Da Vinci has a car that turns into a boat AND flies; he invents the diving suit and uses it; he draws a very early sketch of his classic Vitruvian Man; and – and this is the really fun part – he paints his friend, and love interest, Lisa. Of course Lisa the THE Mona Lisa and its fun to see how the filmmakers portray their relationship and what Lisa thinks of Leo as an artist before his ‘fame’.

This Italian production does suffer from some minor animation issues that means this film, honestly, suits home formats rather than the big screen – there’s just not enough going on in each frame to fill a big screen and that lack of detail certainly won’t matter as much on TV. If the animation suffers slightly, the voice cast certainly doesn’t and neither does the script, which is peppered with some fantastic gags both visual and spoken. Although kudos to the production for creating some memorable characters too – in particular the young Agnes, who seems to be channeling Venelope from Wreck-It Ralph and her namesake, Agnes from Despicable Me. Meanwhile Leo himself his very reminiscent of How to Train Your Dragon‘s Hiccup – neither of which are a bad thing!

A fun kids film that is perfecty suited for families, Leo Da Vinci: Mission Mona Lisa is probably going to get lost in the over-saturated animation market but it doesn’t deserve to – with it fun mix of action, adventure and quasi-historical storytelling this is one of the better animated movies to have come out of Europe in some time.

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