Review: Animated ‘Leap!’ is fun when it dances, but the storytelling? Oof!

The voices of Elle Fanning and Nat Wolff are featured in the animated movie “Leap!”
(The Weinstein Co.)

The animated feature “Leap!” pirouettes onto screens hoping to snag the attention of young audiences during the dog days of summer.

This Canadian production, originally titled “Ballerina,” finally hits U.S. theaters equipped with a Carly Rae Jepsen summer jam, “Cut to the Feeling.” But you’ll spend an hour and 27 minutes waiting for the film to cut to that tune because the ramshackle storytelling takes its own sweet time in this tale of a young girl finding passion and purpose through dance.

Though the distressingly large lollipop heads of the characters are often disconcerting, some of the animation is striking and near photorealistic. At times though it seems all of the resources have been put into the background environment instead of the characters. There is a lot misplaced effort in “Leap!” — and, unfortunately, very little seems to have been put into the story and screenplay, written by Laurent Zeitoun, Eric Summer and Carol Noble.

We’re plunged into the drama right away as dreamers Félicie (given voice by Elle Fanning) and Victor (Nat Wolff) bid bye-bye to their draconian orphanage in the 19th century French countryside and hitch a ride to Paris. She wants to be a dancer, he wants to be an inventor.


Within a day, Victor is working for an unnamed Gustav Eiffel, and Félicie has scammed her way into a prestigious ballet school after taking the acceptance letter intended for spoiled brat Camille (Maddie Ziegler). Félicie has been working for Camille’s evil mother (Kate McKinnon). The stealing of the letter is apparently totally justified because Camille threw Félicie’s dead mother’s music box out a window. Pursue your dreams, kids! Commit mail fraud! And identity theft!

Not only does Félicie have to juggle two identities, but she has to juggle two boys, Victor and Russian dancer Rudy (Tamir Kapelian), though it’s entirely unclear how old everyone is. Félicie is young enough to have to lived in an orphanage in 1880s France, but old enough for dating, apparently.

There are the truly strange anachronisms throughout. Félicie traipses around in denim shorts, and the characters say things like “your dancing sucks” and they make “Hammer Time” jokes. And yet we know it’s supposed to be the 19th century because of the proliferation of top hats and horse-drawn carriages, and because both the Eiffel Tower and Statue of Liberty are under construction.

Fanning does give a charming voice performance, and the dancing is lovely to watch (choreographed by stars of the Paris Opera Ballet), but there are so many haphazard elements to “Leap!” that it never comes together. You may just want to wait for “Leap!” to hit home entertainment before you take the plunge.




Rating: PG, for some impolite humor, and action

Running time: 1 hour, 29 minutes

Playing: In general release

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