Leap! (or Balleria outside of the US) is a French-Canadian animated movie that is hitting American theaters soon. It revolves around a young orphan named Félicie (Elle Fanning) who dreams of one day becoming of a ballerina, so she escapes from her orphanage with her best friend Victor (Nat Wolff) and passes off as someone else to audition for a role in The Nutcracker. I went into this movie blind, not knowing much outside of the cast, and left the screening feeling somewhat disappointed.
Technically, Leap! is fine. The computer-generated animation looks low-budget but it’s far from bad. While the character designs were serviceable, their movement often appears as rather unnatural. The dance sequences were fun to watch but suspending disbelief for them was sometimes difficult because they aren’t exactly grounded in reality. In fact, the direction of both Éric Summer, who also wrote the movie, and Éric Warin isn’t amazing but it’s definitely not average either. However, editing is an area where Leap! needs work; late nineteenth century Paris is a sight for sore eyes but the overabundance of landscape shots becomes tiresome. The soundtrack is Suicide Squad levels of bad consisting of Top 40 pop songs that don’t fit with what’s happening on-screen; the score is even more disposable relying on generic family friendly stock music that isn’t even memorable.
Characters and performances are where the flaws begin to show. Elle Fanning tries as the lead actress and that’s the best I can give her. Fanning’s soft voice is exceptional but it isn’t suitable for Félicie who usually appears as outgoing and enthusiastic. Her character also comes off as somewhat unintelligent, probably because she’s so inexperienced as a dancer, but the movie doesn’t even show or tell us much about her aside from that “she’s daring,” “she’s an orphan,” and “she’s passionate about ballet.” The supporting cast isn’t any better. Nat Wolff, Carly Rae Jepsen, Maddie Ziegler, Mel Brooks, and Kate McKinnon all sound (yes, sound) miscast and for those who are wondering, French voice actors play these characters in the version that’s appropriate to their country; however, The Weinstein Company (TWC) presumably thought that their $30 million animated movie about ballet wouldn’t sell if it didn’t feature several recognizable celebrities voicing characters that just so happened to be French in a movie set in France — as if not hiring professional voice actors wasn’t already annoying.
The writing is where Leap! truly falls flat on its face (pun intended). At a short eighty-nine-minute runtime, the movie doesn’t properly develop characters and events so they aren’t worth investing in, which ironically takes a toll on the pacing as well. Leap! is for the most part tonally consistent but at times becomes so ridiculous that it’s not even worth caring about. A Rocky-esque movie about ballet should work on paper yet the screenplay feels so conventional in its execution. Children and young adults who don’t usually question what they’re watching may enjoy Leap!; however, they shouldn’t see a movie that glorifies lying and identity theft because this one does exactly that for the sake of having a plot.
Verdict: 2 out of 5
I apologize to those who were expecting a longer review but there isn’t much to say about Leap!. It’s a below average animated movie that kids will enjoy and parents will probably sleep through. Otherwise, they should watch Zootopia for the umpteenth time because that film at least uses its remarkable message well.