'Leap!' has grand potential, settles for mediocrity
2.5 out of 5 Stars
Directors: Eric Summer, Eric Warin
Writer: Eric Summer, Laurent Zeitoun, Carol Noble
Starring: Elle Fanning, Carly Rae Jepsen, Nat Wolff, Kate McKinnon
Genre: Animation, Adventure, Comedy
Rated: PG for some impolite humor, and action
Synopsis: An orphan girl runs away from her orphanage to Paris where she hopes to become a ballerina.
Review: One of the most frustrating thing about “Leap!” is that it clearly could have been far better than it is without a massive amount of additional work. However, the most frustrating aspect is that I’m not even sure who to lay the blame on because the film has been reworked by since it debuted in many other markets last year (where reviews were better than they have been stateside). Dane DeHaan, who voiced the supporting character Victor, has been scrubbed from the film and replaced by Nat Wolff and Kate McKinnon and Mel Brooks have also been added to the cast for the domestic release.
The story, despite being filled with tropes and clichés, has a lot of potential. Unfortunately, the script itself isn’t well written and is overstuffed with atrocious dialog. The use of watered down pop songs throughout the film doesn’t help much (Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Cut to the Feeling” being the only exception) and feels out of place considering the narrative takes place around 1888. It’s the sort of move that I’d expect from a direct-to-video release or a film desperate to court an audience that would otherwise not be interested in seeing the movie (which might be exactly what Jepsen’s song and casting is intended to do).
At least the animation is fairly strong and there’s some fun to be had in visiting Paris as it might have looked 150 years ago.
At its core, “Leap!” (or “Ballerina” as it was known everywhere else in the world) is a nice little story about an underprivileged girl who chases down her dream. She follows her heart, works incredibly hard and eventually achieves the success that she hoped for. It’s a familiar, but necessary message.
I suspect that most children will overlook the film’s faults and simply enjoy the film for what it is. Parents won’t be particularly engaged with the narrative, but they will appreciate the message.