SHOULD I SEE IT?
Leap! is a kind-hearted and congenial trip to the multiplex for the family.
Though it does not necessarily look ready for a big screen presentation, some of the dance sequences in the film's final section are quite well rendered and presented.
I mean, it probably makes for a nice break from school shopping and the stress of doing all of that kind of stuff.
For a title like Leap!, you expect something daring and memorable. Nope. Then again, an anachronistic mess, with no commitment to being a comedy or a drama, is kind of a bold decision I guess.
The dialogue is poorly conceived and jokes and dramatic moments flatline again and again.
I think after about 10 minutes or so, it becomes clear why this movie is being quietly dumped into the last weekend of the summer movie season...
Notorious for nabbing internationally distributed films and re-releasing them in the United States in altered, re-cut, or otherwise amended ways, The Weinstein Company end the summer movie season with Leap!, a new animated film called Ballerina when first released in France and the United Kingdom in December 2016, and Canada in the spring of 2017.
Originally scheduled to be released in the U.S. this past spring, the movie was inexplicably pulled from the release schedule, re-titled, and five characters were "re-voiced" by three new actors - Nat Wolff (the lead male voice, replacing the curious original casting choice of Dane DeHaan), Mel Brooks, and Kate McKinnon, who pulls triple duty here.
But, like, why not just put out the film you bought the rights to? If you didn't believe in it, why bother in the first place?
In terms of a story, Leap! is a head-scratcher. Félicie (Elle Fanning) is an 11-year-old girl who dreams of starring in the ballet. Living in an orphanage, she sees no way to realize her dreams. Enter fellow orphan and inventor extraordinaire Victor (Wolff), Félicie's best friend who helps orchestrate an escape from their residence to the outside world.
Félicie finds herself at the youth program of the Paris Opera Ballet and assumes the identity of Camille (Maddie Ziegler), the arrogant, dancer extraordinaire daughter of Régine (Kate McKinnon). She slides on into the prestigious school, somehow undetected and unchecked, and begins studying at the school under false pretenses. Conveniently, Victor becomes an apprentice to Gustave Eiffel (*insert a shoulder shrug emoji here*), finding himself working on both the Statue of Liberty and Eiffel Tower at the same time.
Until that detail arrives some 20-25 minutes in, we have no actual clue what century, decade, or year we are in. I mean, yes, we should realize we are in the past, but perhaps the use of contemporary pop music montages, and classical music, common to the time period, only compounds some of the confusion.
Félicie is befriended by Odette (Carly Rae Jepsen), a caretaker at the school, and begins to acclimate with her assumed identity. The class learns one student will be chosen to dance, alongside a world famous ballerina, as Clara, in the Paris Opera Ballet's performance of "The Nutcracker." Can Félicie earn the role? Will her ruse be revealed?
Give you three guesses.
Watching Leap! is a challenge because the movie has no discernible pace, rhythm, or tone. Slapstick humor plays next to melodrama. Songs by Jepsen and Demi Lovato, among others, are ahead of, or just following scenes involving the work of Tchaikovsky.
Sure. We'll go with it.
Fanning offers a serviceable, congenial performance, but opposite a hyperkinetic, overbearing Wolff, there is no chemistry found between the two main characters. The press notes indicate that these main characters are around 11 or 12 years old. So naturally, Victor has a crush on Félicie, but a dancer named Rudolph (Tamir Kapelian) has eyes on her as well.
What's a little love triangle among 11- and 12-year-old's, amirite?
Co-directed by Éric Summer and Éric Warin, the movie retains a look that resembles an animated mid-morning television series, infused with steroids, for display on a big screen. The dialogue is cringe-inducing at times, when pop culture references, hopelessly out of place, are tossed out like candy for children in the audience, who may not even be all that interested in how those little morsels even taste in the first place.
Everything feels so overthought and mismanaged. Interestingly, the movie played better with critics in its original form than this remixed version has stateside. The film does have a few moments that are nice to see on screen, especially when we eventually arrive to the scenes involving "The Nutcracker." Jepsen does a nice job in her mentoring role to Félicie, and McKinnon is chewing paper, scenery, and every single word she recites throughout the movie, portraying three different motherly characters in work that feels heavy on the improv and light on any "direction."
Leap!, a title as nebulous to this movie as it is ambiguous, never lifts off the ground. Jokes fall flat, the movie never finds a voice, and we just wander through a rambling wreck of a screenplay that never coalesces in any meaningful way.
If a positive exists, beyond the fact that Carly Rae Jepsen's original music for the movie is a definite plus to the viewing experience, the movie is always "nice enough." However, "nice" and "kind-hearted" can only take viewers so far, when the film is as predictable as a toddler's puzzle.
Instantly forgettable, mired and weighed down in a series of adventures and contrived sequences, Leap! lulls us closer to sleep, rather than offering an experience with anything bold, brave, or memorable to share.
CAST & CREW
Featuring the Voices of: Elle Fanning, Nat Wolff, Carly Rae Jepsen, Kate McKinnon, Maddie Ziegler, Mel Brooks, Tamir Kapelian, Ricardo Sanchez.
Directors: Éric Summer, Éric Warin
Written by: Carol Noble, Éric Summer, Éric Warin (screenplay); Éric Summer, Laurent Zeitoun (story); Éric Summer (original idea).
Release Date: August 25, 2017
The Weinstein Company