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Leap! (A Movie Review)

Updated: Mar 18, 2020


LEAP! (2017)

Featuring the voices of Elle Fanning, Nat Wolff, Carly Rae Jepsen, Maddie Ziegler, Terence Scammel, Tamir Kapelian, Julie Khaner, Joe Sheridan, Elena Dunkleman, Soshana Sperling, Mel Brooks, Kate McKinnon, Jamie Watson, Bronwen Mantel, Alona Leoine and Ricardo Sanchez.

Screenplay by Carol Noble, Laurent Zeitoun & Eric Summer.

Directed by Eric Summer and Éric Warin.

Distributed by The Weinstein Company. 89 minutes. Rated PG.

In kindergarten, my daughter learned an important lesson: Put up, don’t put down.

In the spirit of that adage, let me start by saying that the animation in Leap! was impressive. The animators really captured the spirit, passion, and precision of movement. Years ago, we watched countless Barbie dance videos; known for lovely, classic stories with just-okay animation. It would be so great to see the Barbie series rebooted with this higher-level animation.

It would also be so great if Leap! had better writing, music, and plot to match the animation.

The movie’s story is completely unoriginal, with a couple of cute, gritty orphans escaping life in the orphanage to follow their dreams in Paris. It is set in France in the 1880’s as both the Eiffel Tower and Statue of Liberty are being built. (Though, technically, the Eiffel Tower was not started until years after the Statue of Liberty had already been shipped to the United States.)

Our heroine is Felicie (voiced by Elle Fanning), who dreams of becoming a ballerina. She is accompanied by Victor (voiced by Nat Wolff), her best friend and a future inventor.  Together, they steal off into the night, chased by the heartwarming Luteau (voiced by Mel Brooks). Alas, in spite of their ridiculous plan, they make it onto the train to Paris.

They are quickly separated upon arrival in Paris, with a plan to meet on a bridge the next day to compare their progress towards reaching their dreams. Felicie finds her way to the ballet school, where she is kept from being arrested for trespassing by the kindly, limping cleaning lady, Odette (voiced by Carly Rae Jepson).

This is where the storyline basically explodes, and not in a good way. The writers throw every plot line they can think of into this story (love triangle; spoiled rich girl made bad by her evil fame-seeking mother; Karate Kid underdog plot; overly dorky sidekick friend – to the point of being pitiful and stereotyped to the hilt). These dueling plotlines leave the movie feeling packed, rushed and sloppy.

The movie’s message of perseverance and never giving up on dreams gets lost in clichéd fart-and-urine jokes, anachronisms that detract from the story and music that was out of place at best. The movie is at its best when Felicie returns to the orphanage, with her spirit apparently broken, and she is able to refocus and triumphantly return to Paris.

My daughter and I left the theater in dual frustration. Animated movies are at their best when they have intelligent writing, plots and character development – where both children and their parents walk out feeling they’ve been entertained.

I was left with the feeling that the development team did not think highly of their audience. My daughter left saying: P.S. The Statue of Liberty was built out of copper.

Bonnie Paul

Copyright ©2017 All rights reserved. Posted: August 25, 2017.

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