We all know Leonardo da Vinci as one of the great inventors of the Renaissance, a creative genius who was probably one of the smartest individuals to ever grace our planet. But what about when he was just a kid? Was he a fun-loving adventurer constantly fiddling with new ideas as he explored the hills of Vinci, his beloved Italian hometown?
The family film Leo Da Vinci: Mission Mona Lisa offers a vision of how Leo’s childhood might have been spent, in bright, vivid 3D computer animation. Leo (voice of Johnny Yong Bosch) and his pal Lorenzo (voice of Bryce Papenbrook) roam the Vinci countryside, testing out Leo’s latest inventions and looking for adventure. When they visit Leo’s crush Lisa (voice of Cherami Leigh), the results are as cute as they are predictable: Leonardo stutters and blushes? You bet he does!
But when Lisa’s family estate burns down, it’s up to the three pals to figure out how to quickly raise some money to pay off their rent to the unforgiving landlord. Leo and Lorenzo want to help, so the three head to Florence to try and sell some of Leo’s paintings, notably a painting that sure as heck looks like the Mona Lisa in sketch form.
It’s treasure that catches their imagination, however, when a sly gypsy spins an incredible tale of riches identified through a map that he’s selling at the bargain price of one florin! What kid doesn’t love a quest for treasure, and the fact that it offers a chance for Leo to try out some of his inventions is just an added bonus. It’s not long before cute orphan girl Agnes (voice of Faith Graham) and young astronomer Niccolò (voice of Landen Beattie) join their quest, and they add a lot of additional fun (and a point of connection for younger viewers too).
Behind the scenes there are pirates afoot too, however, because treasures and oceans always involve pirates! They are definitely in the Disney vein of incompetent twits more than anything truly threatening so there’s real no peril or tension, even when Leo and gang are captured by the pirates who want to acquire the treasure.
There are innumerable storyline hiccups and illogical sequences, inventions that wouldn’t actually work and even a confusing title: There’s not much in the film about the Mona Lisa painting. But that doesn’t deter from the enjoyment of this simple, straightforward and innocent animated film. There’s no adult subtext like modern Pixar and Disney films either, it’s really aimed directly at children.
And it’s children that are going to enjoy this. My youngest is 15 and she’s definitely too old for Leo Da Vinci: Mission Mona Lisa. I imagine children up to, and possibly into their tweens are the perfect target for this film, however, and recommend it as good, wholesome and entertaining family fare.