Leap!’s message is complicatedly mixed. Felicie (v. Elle Fanning), a young orphan in jean shorts, and her best friend, Victor (v. Nat Wolff), escape from their orphanage run by a lazy-eyed guy who sounds just like Mel Brooks. (Who runs from Mel Brooks?) They wind up in Paris, a city not known for being this kind to 11-year-olds on their own. Felicie dreams of being a dancer, and unbelievably winds up competing to dance in The Nutcracker, thanks to some Karate Kid training from an injured former dancer named Odette (v. Carly Rae Jepsen). With no basic dance training, Felicie chooses not to practice when she should but achieves her goal due to her big heart.
Let’s just forget that becoming a professional ballerina is ultra-competitive and a goal some dancers never achieve despite training their entire lives. So, good on Leap! for teaching kids how important it is to dream; shame on Leap! for implying preparation is not crucial for reaching the pinnacle of a highly skilled profession. The animation does not help, swaying from deeply impressive to as awkwardly, cheaply stilted as its pitiful dialogue; the writers have no grasp of subtext. But there are pop songs, the filmmakers would argue, to hook today’s youth on this dated, inspirational cliché. They do not help. By the sub-moronic climax atop the unfinished Statue of Liberty, most adult audience members will not care. Lucky you if your kiddos still do.
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