Disney may have captured the magic formula for animated children’s films, but there is room for other players. This weekend, Leap! took the spotlight.
I’ve always been partial to movies with exclamation points in their titles: but could this animated dance movie live up to all the excitement indicated by its unconventional punctuation?
If the intended audience is children who love dance, then I think yes, they will be excited. Remember that children are far kinder critics than adults: my daughter currently ranks the Emoji movie in her top five. And while she enjoyed that one for its splash and flash, I know she liked Leap! for all the right reasons.
First, the backdrop of turn-of-the-century Paris is spectacular. From the partially-built Eiffel tower to the cobblestone streets bathed in gaslight, it’s a beautiful canvas for a story about young dreamers.
This Cinderella story set in the dance world is simple. Felicie lives in an orphanage but dreams of becoming a dancer. Her best friend Victor wants to become an inventor. Together, they escape to Paris, and make a bet that each will realize his or her respective dream sooner.
Felicie through a stroke of luck befriends Odette, a woman with a mysterious past who has the grueling job of cleaning the Opera, home of the Paris ballet. Odette also works at the home of one Madame La Haute, a monster dance mom who insists that her daughter Camille will achieve stardom in the ballet.
Felicie steals Camille’s invitation to take classes at the Opera, where she gets off to a bumpy start. With the help of Odette, who ends up being a marvelous dance teacher, the fairy tale begins to take shape. Victor meanwhile becomes an assistant’s assistant to Monsieur Eiffel, the engineering genius.
The voice acting is heartfelt and the feel-good story is enough to overpower some of the film’s shortcomings. The movie is formulaic and not very graceful as it gets its story underway. Some of the jokes are corny, and the cracks about flatulence are completely unnecessary. But the movie’s pace picks up as Felicie’s story gathers steam. Leap! leaps into action after Felicie is in the running for a lead role in the Nutcracker.
Leap! gives us original characters and some beautiful animated dancing. It’s nice to see a family film that isn’t the fourth in a franchise. Check it out with your little ballerina.