Sunday, September 3, 2017
If I'm being completely up front about this, "Leap!" is kind of a dumb movie. Hence is why it's in the 30 percent range on Rotten Tomatoes. I get it. But in this specific instance you'll notice that I'm going to be a heck of a lot more forgiving towards this movie than I have other animated movies this summer like "Cars 3," "Despicable Me 3" and "The Emoji Movie" because I think context and target audience is extremely important here. "Leap!" is not a movie intended to be a best picture nominee that will blow the minds of every adult who sees it. In fact, it's not targeted at all towards all of those grumpy adults giving it bad reviews. This is a movie that is specifically aimed at five-year-old girls and I am absolutely confident that those five-year-old girls who see it will totally love it and it may even inspire them to start dancing or have a goal to be a ballerina. And if I'm right on that and the movie accomplishes this, then I think it's a huge win. That's the beauty of cinema. Hundreds of movies come out each year and if you look hard enough then you will find something for everyone. "Leap!" happens to be the movie for five-year-old girls and I think that's fantastic. If you watch the trailer and decide that this isn't for you, then that's perfectly fine. Find something right for you.
The other thing that stood out to me right away was that it felt like it was a French movie that had been poorly dubbed over into English. Given that this is a French film, had that been the case it wouldn't have been super surprising. Foreign animation films usually have a dubbing and a subtitles version of their movies. I always prefer subtitles because I like hearing the original voices and I don't mind reading the subtitles. After 10-15 minutes, my brain adjusts to it and I feel it's not much different than watching a movie in English. But in the case of "Leap!," after my own investigation of the matter, it appears that this was initially released in English. In looking at the animation itself, it appears that their mouths are speaking English words and not French words dubbed into English. And I can't find anywhere that reveals a French version of the cast. So then my next conclusion is that perhaps this was just miscast. Elle Fanning, 19, and Dane DeHaan, 31, are voicing our two 11-year-old main characters. Carly Rae Jepsen, 31, is voicing the older former ballerina while Maddie Ziegler, 14, is voicing the rival girl Camille. Maddie is the only one that seems on point. The others do fine, I just think maybe they should've picked voices closer to the characters' actual ages?
The other problems that I'm sure others will point out is that the animation isn't quite up to par when you compare it to other animated films from big studios and of course the story is as by the numbers as you can get. But do you know what? I think this movie had enough heart in it. I think it teaches positive messages about dreaming big and following those dreams. Along with that, it teaches that you need to work hard to achieve your dreams and if you do things that aren't morally right or if you slack off and just expect everything to fall to you, there will be negative consequences. But yet despite mistakes that may be made, these obstacles can be overcome. People can change and do things the right way. Are these lessons that have been taught in movies before? Absolutely. But again, target audience. While us adults may have seen these things plenty of times in movies, there's a chance that young girls watching this movie might not have seen it as much as us adults and this is a movie that can inspire them to dream big. It hits all the notes you think it will. But it hits them right and has enough likable characters and plot points that I gave it a pass. Plus, the little girl sitting close to me in the theater seemed to be loving life. That has to count for something, right?
For some final thoughts on this review, there are a few other moments that I legitimately loved. You could perhaps trash the story all you want, but there's a lot of animated dance choreography in this movie that is legitimately well done and the soundtrack is spot on. There's even one moment where Felicie and Camille have a dance off to Demi Lovato's "Confident" and I was really entertained. Maybe the voice acting was a bit off, but the characters were likable enough. You're rooting for Felicie and Victor to succeed in their endeavors and even though the story is super familiar as you could come up with a lot of different movies that it seems to follow, it's a charming enough journey along the way with a positive message for young girls that will teach them to dream big and to work hard to follow their dreams. This is not an easy journey for Felicie and not everything just magically falls into her laps and there are times where she wants to give up. But through persistence, she is able to overcome the challenges facing her. So if you are a parent with young girls, you should go take them to see this one. Or you can wait and rent it when it comes to DVD or play it if it shows up on Netflix. It's a charming little film that I'm going to award a 7/10.