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Movie Review: Leap!

Leap! stumbles over cheap plotting.

By Sean PatrickPublished 7 years ago 4 min read
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It’s bizarre to me at times the things we feel are alright simply because they are animated. Take for instance the new animated family movie Leap which, while it tells a lovely story of an aspiring ballerina, spends a portion of its third act following a crazy woman as she attempts to murder two orphan children. Now, I get it, they’re animated but the choice made here is so incredibly forced and horrible that it doesn’t feel like Elmer Fudd’s failed attempts to murder Bug Bunny but something far more grim, ugly and worst of all, unnecessary.

Leap tells the story of Felicie (voiced by Elle Fanning) and her friend Victor (voiced by Nat Wolff) who escape from an orphanage on the outskirts of France and head to Paris to achieve their dreams. While Victor dreams inventing a way to fly, Felicie dreams of being a dancer and her dream is what drives the plot as she quite literally stumbles her way into the most prestigious dance company in Paris. There she meets Odette (voiced by Carly Rae Jepsen) who becomes her mentor and mother figure.

After Felicie nabs an invitation to attend the famed dance company from a talented but bratty rival (voiced by Maddie Ziegler) she begins attending classes while Odette begins to train her in secret. Odette used to be a dancer herself and in one of the film’s many abandoned plot strands, her background as a famed dancer is barely mentioned before it is pushed aside. Eventually, Felicie’s ruse is uncovered by the evil mother of her bratty rival (voiced in typically over the top manner by SNL star Kate McKinnon), and Felicie must fight for her chance to remain in class and in competition for the lead role in a major production or end up being sent back to the orphanage.

There are lovely moments in Leap but for each lovely moment there is a head-scratchingly awful moment such as a montage of Victor regaling Felicie with his own Paris adventure which he describes as triumph while we suffer/watch footage of him stumbling, falling and at one point lighting farts. Yes, this lovely movie about a young girl dreaming of life in the ballet contains a scene where a young boy lights his fart. Because, apparently, Hollywood hates your children.

Of the many good examples of how little Hollywood cares for children’s tiny little brains, I give you the third act of Leap which kicks off with Felicie deciding to go on a date with a jerky fellow dancer (voiced by Tamier Kapelian) instead of practicing for the biggest moment of her young life. She then, with little to no prompting tells Jepsen’s kindly Odette “You’re not my mother” before storming out to skip her practice and go be with a boy. That this turns out to be a mistake that she regrets is a given but the fact that it happens at all is a testament to the film’s incredibly forced writing and plot which has little respect for the audience or even its own characters.

Bear in mind that to this point in the film Felicie’s character has been tested by her cheating her way into the ballet school but once she gets into the ballet company the story becomes about her passion and dedication. The third act chucks all of that character development in favor of a forced, nonsensical plot conflict because the people who made Leap didn’t care to put in the work to create a more genuine conflict that didn’t undercut their main character.

And this brings me back to the scene I mentioned before where McKinnon’s evil mother character chases Felicie and Victor with murderous intent. The scene begins with this large, evil woman whacking Victor in the head with a wrench. She then chases Felicie with the wrench in hand, chasing her up to the top of a tall statue with the intent of pushing her off to her death. I won’t spoil the rest of the scene for those who wish to gawk at it in awe, besides you can likely predict the outcome.

This scene along with pretty much all of the third act is filled with horrific, irritating and pathetic contrivance. Either it’s horrible like the scene I described or its predictable like the ending or it’s vulgar screenwriting 101 malarkey with a full on false crisis, false dawn, real crisis, real dawn structure. Yes, because no one has ever seen that Robert McKee garbage anywhere before. I realize that children don’t know or care about screenplay structure but lazy movies like Leap that fall back on Hollywood's most overused cliches are why children grow into adults who don’t demand more of their entertainment.

When kids are continuously bombarded by movies that are just good enough or that are not so bad that they are offensive it sets a tone that can last their entire life where they consume art and simply accept good enough. I’m saying don’t see Leap because you should demand more from movies for kids than just standard plots with simple, easy to consume structure. Their young minds demand more than murderous old hags and fart lighting gags.

That leads me to another thing that stinks about Leap, the first two acts are not terrible. There is a lovely coming of age tale buried under the ugly commercial contrivances. The reason Leap fails is because the makers don’t trust the audience to simply be inspired by a young girls’ dream to dance. Instead they underestimate and insult the young target audience by making her dream into a predictable mess of lowest common denominator storytelling and gags.

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About the Creator

Sean Patrick

Hello, my name is Sean Patrick He/Him, and I am a film critic and podcast host for the I Hate Critics Movie Review Podcast I am a voting member of the Critics Choice Association, the group behind the annual Critics Choice Awards.

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