2017, PG, 89 min. Directed by Eric Summer, Éric Warin. Starring Elle Fanning, Kate McKinnon, Carly Rae Jepsen, Nat Wolff, Maddie Ziegler, Mel Brooks, Terrence Scammell, Tamir Kapelian, Joe Sheridan.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Sept. 1, 2017
Instead of the go-to princess protagonist adopted by most animated movies targeted at young female viewers, Leap! takes a different route. This film’s central character Félicie (Fanning) is an orphan who wants to become a ballerina. The adolescent escapes her Brittany orphanage with her best friend Victor (Wolff), who wants to become an inventor, and the two head for Paris to pursue their dreams. The fulfillment of a dream begins with a leap of faith, advises this film. The exclamation point after the title is meant, I suppose, to drive the point home.
The well-chosen voice cast helps make this a fairly engaging tale, even though the film is riddled with a wealth of head-scratching anachronistic errors. (Jean shorts in 1880s Paris, the Statue of Liberty still under construction, a motorcycle among the horse and buggies, a performance of The Nutcracker even though it wasn’t yet composed?!) Elle Fanning and Nat Wolff give dimension to their characters, while pop star Carly Rae Jepsen as the hobbled former ballerina-turned-cleaning woman lends a sad warmth to Odette, and Maddie Ziegler (the dancer in Sia’s “Chandelier” video) adds just the right amount of bratty chill to Camille, Félicie’s primary competitor. Comedy veteran Mel Brooks and comedy “It Girl” Kate McKinnon also perform voice duties. The realistic movement rendered by Montreal animation house L’Atelier Animation is often quite lovely, although that illusion is counteracted by the characters’ especially large heads. (Also, there might be a nose fetishist among the animators, as there is great variety and detail devoted to every character’s proboscis.) Occasional violence of the Wile E. Coyote nondamaging sort also punctuates the film. Nevertheless, if you’re the guardian of a girl who’s still in her tutu phase, you and she will probably enjoy Leap!