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FILM REVIEW: LEAP! Jumpstarts You Into Following Your Dreams

FILM REVIEW: LEAP! Jumpstarts You Into Following Your Dreams

The upcoming animated film Leap! tells of a poor orphan girl who dreams of escaping the confinement of the orphanage to follow her dreams and make it big as a ballerina in the Paris Opera Ballet. The rags to riches tale, at times Cinderella, at times The Karate Kid, is recognizable as a companion to the many-such stories that have been told before it. But its familiarity does not detract from its enjoyment, not with the beautiful animation and a well-told timeless tale of self-improvement.

Felicie, voiced by Elle Fanning, has tried 462 times to escape the oppressive walls of the child center she’s been relegated to. But 463rd is the charm, they say, particularly with the help of her trusty companion and would-be love interest Victor, voiced by Nat Wolff. After a plucky, cartoonish escape sequence, the unlikely duo is on the way to the City of Light, each to follow their individual passions. Felicie, to be a ballerina, and Victor to be an engineer and work perhaps alongside a certain Mr. Eiffel.

Yes, the settings and the names are very French, as the film was produced in Canada and France and distributed there last year, but for reasons unknown to me only now hitting American theaters. For parents looking for a story that is both entertaining for kids and adults but also has positive messages for the little ones, it was worth the wait.

Upon arrival, Felicie is quickly immersed into a Cinderella-like story where the spoiled rich girl has a spot in the tryouts to appear in the Nutcracker at the ballet, and she does not. But, with the help of a rag-clad, mysterious young woman named Odette—she looks like Idina Menzel but is voiced by singer Carly Rae Jepsen—Felicie may just have a shot. A Mr. Miyagi-like relationship develops between Odette and Felicie, and Felicie has just a short five days to go from green novice to professional dancer.

The turnabout does come about at breakneck speed, as do most of the other developments in Leap! There are actually few obstacles that are ever serious, and the remarkable rise of both children from homeless to master class makes Donald Trump’s ascendancy to the Presidency seem too slow. If one other obvious complaint can be piled on, it’s that Leap! is most clearly a combination of movies you have seen many times before, including the aforementioned as well as a bevy of others like Frozen, Brave, etc.

But the film is nevertheless worthwhile because, as a kids’ movie, it hits all the spots you want it to. It has just enough adventure, including an over-the-top caper climax towards the end, and a great deal of emotion and lessons to fill the tight 90 minute runtime. The point is to forget your origins and discover yourself, to triumph over adversity, and to understand that setting your mind to a goal can help you achieve it. Any story about a kid achieving their dreams through effort is by default a good one.

And Leap! is more than just a hokey recitation of those moral values, it is genuine about its own passion for anger, love, pain, rejection, sorrow, and lost opportunities. Though the story centers around the usually happy Felicie and the audacious and spirited Victor, the Odette character is in a way the most interesting, with secrets and regrets of her own. The characters ask you to vibrate to the top of your toes, and you may just, lifted up by the beautiful animation of their pirouettes, and the intriguing landscapes of a Paris under reconstruction after the Commune of 1871 and ahead of the World’s Fair.

Although the movie will not have you jumping out of your seats in applause, and it will not spring any original film ideas into your head, you will undoubtedly leave the theater with a hop and a skip and your step, after your heart has lept for joy.

Leap! will be released in theaters this Friday, August 25.

Grade: B+


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About The Author

J. Don Birnam

J. Don Birnam, a voting member of the New York Film Critics Online, has been a movie lover since he saw the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film in theaters at a tender age, and has been a devoted student of American film history every since. His favorite films range from Back to the Future to West Side Story, depending on the time of day, and has a mildly unhealthy obsessions with the Academy Awards. Any similarity with the slightly unstable writer in the seminal 1944 film 'The Lost Weekend' is pure coincidence

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