A story of courage, bravery, and friendship, Leo Da Vinci: Mission Mona Lisa is an Italian animated feature arriving stateside with indie distributor Ammo Content on August 2nd with a limited nationwide release that includes initial stops at two Central Indiana theaters - Indy's own Republic Georgetown 14 and Shelbyville's Republic Studio 10.
Dubbed into English, Leo Da Vinci: Mission Mona Lisa is centered around a young, ambitious inventor named, you guessed it, Leo Da Vinci (voiced by Power Ranger Johnny Yong Bosch), whose continuous testing of and tinkering with his inventions mostly serves as an amusement to longtime best friends Lisa (Cherami Leigh) and Lorenzo (Bryce Papenbrook), whose support is unquestioned even as Leo aims for the impossible.
Returning from an outing to a nearby lake, the trio discovers that Lisa's family home has mysteriously burst into flames, a tragedy made worse by the landlord's insistence that her father pay off his entire debt or have Lisa agree to a marriage with the landlord's less than desirable son.
Leo ain't gonna' be having that.
Determined to come up with a viable solution to raise the money that Lisa needs, Leo, who bears an uncanny resemblance ot Hiccup from the How to Train Your Dragon films, heads off to the nearest big city, Florence, along with a collection of his paintings and Lorenzo and Lisa in an effort to either sell the paintings or to obtain work from one of the local masters. While in Florence, they stumble upon a mysterious storyteller who speaks a tale of a hidden treasure that has a one-of-a-kind treasure map that he's willing to part with...could this solve all their problems? Joined in their quest by a fearless little orphan girl, Agnes (Faith Graham), and a self-educated Polish boy named Niccolo (Landen Beattie), they all set out on their adventure where they realize, as is always true in these types of tales, that they are not alone and their quest to discover the treasure won't be easy.
Swirling with excitement amplified by Marco Fedalto's soaring, vibrant original score, Leo Da Vinci is a fun, energetic and kid-friendly endeavor that features beautiful animation and a story that is familiar yet weirdly wonderful in a special kind of way. If you're expecting a historically accurate accounting of a certain Da Vinci, you'd do best to lower your expectations quite a bit. I wouldn't expect much in the way of historical accuracy involving a certain Mona Lisa either, though if we're being fully honest most of us wouldn't know Mona Lisa's historical accuracy if it bit us on the nose.
Ultimately, Leo Da Vinci is a family adventure film that celebrates the ingenuity and loyalty and infinite adventurousness of children and the importance of friendship and teamwork. We wait, but perhaps secretly already know the answer, to find out if Leo's inventiveness, Lorenzo’s loyalty and Niccolò and Agnes’ clever input will be sufficient to solve the puzzle and determine if the treasure exists and if they will be able to evade the pirates, save Lisa’s father, and defeat a team of dastardly pirates determined to claim the treasure for themselves.
Leo Da Vinci: Mission Mona Lisa is a rare and treasured glimpse inside the world of indie animation and, especially for U.S. moviegoers, a wonderful look inside the world of foreign animation with its unique visuals and linguistics. While it may not be the best animated feature you see in 2019, if it arrives in a theater near you it's definitely worth a trip to your local theater to check it out.
Vocal work is strong across the board, neither as wildly inventive as some contemporary cinema nor as dry and functional as can be found in so many of today's Hollywood releases. For more information on the film, visit its official U.S. website linked to in the credits.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic