Full disclosure, I actually did write a review for this, or at least had a healthy chunk of it written. However, for whatever reason, something glitched out and all my work was erased and I couldn’t get it back. So here I am, writing it again, mostly because I have a MoviePass card now and I’m playing around with it.
LEAP! if I remember correctly is a French animated film originally titled “Ballerina,” and was renamed “Leap!” for American audiences. To my understanding, BALLERINA was almost a different film than was presented here. My only source on this is a review of BALLERINA from Youtube’s Stoned Gremlin Productions, who seemed to have nice things to say about that, but didn’t see LEAP!. Anyway, initially, I thought this movie was going to be a pretty dull film. A standard “follow your dreams” story that’s been done to death thanks to Disney. Give Disney some credit, at least they make good movies. I have no idea what the story is here for the lack of originality.
Here’s the voice talent. Starring, we have Elle Fanning (THE BEGUILED , THE NEON DEMON , and I AM SAM ), Carly Rae Jepsen (1 episode of CASTLE), and Nat Wolff (HOME AGAIN , PAPER TOWNS , and ADMISSION ). In support, we have Maddie Ziegler (THE BOOK OF HENRY ), Terence Scammell (HEAVY METAL 2000 , and video games DEUS EX: MANKIND DIVIDED  and TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES ), Kate McKinnon (ROUGH NIGHT , MASTERMINDS , GHOSTBUSTERS , and upcoming film FERDINAND  and TV revival THE MAGIC SCHOOL BUS RIDES AGAIN ), and Mel Brooks (HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 2 , SPACEBALLS , and BLAZING SADDLES ).
Now for the crew. One of the writers, Laurent Zeitoun, is known for THE INTOUCHABLES (2011). The composer is Klaus Badelt, who is known for THE IDENTICAL (2014), ULTRAVIOLET (2006), PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: THE CURSE OF THE BLACK PEARL (2003), and upcoming film CHRISTOPHER ROBIN (2018). Finally, the cinematographer is Jericca Cleland, known for SPACE CHIMPS (2008).
Overall, I am not looking forward to see thing a second time.
This is my honest opinion of: LEAP!
Set in Paris, France, circa 1880s. The story follows Félicie (voiced by Elle Fanning), a young orphan girl growing up in an orphanage with a penchant for dancing and for trying to escape to Paris. Along with her best friend Victor (voiced by Nat Wolff), they manage to finally do just that. The two friends get separated and Félicie finds a prestigious dance school, specifically ballet, which she isn’t trained in. So she ends up getting trained by Odette (voiced by Carly Rae Jepsen), who is a servant of a cruel woman, who is the mother to Félicie’s dance rival, Camille (Maddie Ziegler).
My experience is only slightly better.
Félicie is still a standard dreamer with very little personality. I swear, her dialog consists of nothing but, “I am a dancer!” “I’m going to be such a great dancer.” Jeez, get a side hobby, woman! Luckily, Fanning is a fantastic actor, so even if the dialog is beyond basic, her voice almost always matches the emotions of the character. Victor is still the annoying comic relief, subjected to the worst jokes in the movie, including poop jokes multiple times. To make matters worse, he’s kind of gross, sneezing in his hand, trying to kiss her with no indication that his night out with Félicie would go in that direction. And I will never understand how inconsistently written he is. For a character who is so smart that he can make a pair of functioning, wings that help him glide from tall places, he’ll call those wings “chicken wings” even though chickens can’t fly. To which his response will be, “But they have have wings. They must fly.” Wow… Wolff is a decent actor, but he is trying way too hard to be funny here. I can’t tell if it’s a result of him not knowing how to act with his voice, or if he was given awful direction. But the worst of the lot, Jepsen. Despite being a passable singer, she is not a good actress. She has no emotion in her voice at all. It’s like every line she reads, you can almost see her in the recording booth sounding uncomfortable. One has to ask, if they only use the best takes, how bad were the others?
In fact, the more I think about it, there isn’t any real reason for this to be an animated film. Dancing in real life is spectacle. It’s impressive because it’s real people who had real training. With animation, the dancing is just… cartoonish. You don’t see the real sweat, the strain, the fatigue. If done right, the audience should be able it’s just not the same effect. The whole point of animation is to see something that real life can’t provide. But real dancers exist. If you want to see a more impressive dance movie involving ballet, watch the French film POLINA (2017). Ballet, modern dance, it’s far more all-encompassing than this and far more impressive to watch.
And what’s with the budding romance between Félicie and Rudy (voiced by Tamir Kapelian). That literally comes out of nowhere and ends up being exactly what you’d expect it to be. Félicie is only attracted to Rudy for his looks and manipulative charm, given little to no real personality, and ends up being a jerk. Gee, never seen that before in a movie.
Speaking of animation, it’s not… bad, per se. The expressions are pretty good, for the most part. The lighting, the colors, it all works visually. Which makes it all the more heartbreaking when you have subpar voice actors attached, distracting from the emotions and just grating to the ears. There’s some facial animations that are trying too hard to be comical, especially with Madam Regine (Kate McKinnon), who is so over the top evil that it really is comical. The textures are impressive. You can tell there was a lot of time dedicated to making the dirty places and things look dirty and the pretty things and places look pretty. But if there’s anything that’s done incredibly well, it’s the background work. Holy… it’s incredible and gorgeous to look at. Clearly, there is talent working on this, but who green lit the stuff that didn’t? And there is a good idea of exploring passion versus technique. Félicie is an inexperienced dancer with raw talent. Camille is classically trained and highly competitive, but she only does it because he mother makes her do it. Félicie has more than a few obstacles to overcome, but her determination and open-mindedness to learn how to move her body in ways that she’s not used to allows her to break through her limitations. But Camille, despite flawless performances, limits herself to what she knows and is capable of doing. It doesn’t help that her mother, who is a heartless wench, is raising her and probably saps out all ability to emote in her dancing. All of this is explored surprisingly well. As I understand it, the French and Canadian originals are different and seem like they’re better than the American cut. Maybe the American version couldn’t dumb down all the great stuff from the original.
Overall, I’d say this wasn’t as bad as my first experience, but it was still not great. The animation quality is inconsistent, ranging from great to awkward, the characters are horribly bland, poor writing, inconsistent quality in voice acting, it’s an atrociously messy flick. But at the end of the day, the movie is harmless. While I don’t think it’s worth taking your kids to see in theaters, it’s a rental at best, I also don’t think it’s worth seeing at all. There’s better animated films out there, but I guess if you wanted to show them something that wasn’t Disney, or Pixar, this isn’t the worst.
My honest rating for LEAP!: a weak 3/5