REVIEW: ‘Leap!’ Held Back By Formulaic Story, Weak Characters

I consider myself quite a bit of an animation fan, so I was fairly disappointed with the recently released “Leap!”

The film focuses on a young orphan girl named Felicie (Elle Fanning), who’s attempting to achieve her dream of being a famous ballet dancer in Paris. With the help of her best friend Victor (Dane DeHaan), the two manage to get away from the orphanage and make it to the City of Lights.

Felicie eventually makes it to the ballet dance school and there she meets a former dancer named Odette (Carly Rae Jepsen), who decides to help her get a spot in the intense learning environment. Not only does Felicie have to deal with a rough dance education, though, she also ends up having a rival with another young dancer named Camille (Maddie Ziegler).

“Leap!” is, unfortunately, an immensely formulaic film, with much of the story being predictable from start to finish. More or less, the film just offers a generic underdog tale that isn’t executed all that well. There are a few fun things here and there, Odette using peculiar training methods with Felicie a la Mr. Miyagi. But as a whole, the film just feels like it’s going through the motions.

Whenever the movie takes a step forward with something genuinely charming, Felicie becoming a better dancer, for example, it takes two steps back. These steps back, for example, include dreadful slapstick humor, mainly from the character Victor.

Worst of all, though, was a sequence that happens in the third act of the movie with the character Camille’s mother. It’s so over the top and out of left field that it destroys any goodwill the flick may have built up.

Both Camille and her mother are very stock in terms of characteristics, with them just acting like typical villains. The character Victor doesn’t help matters much, either. Every time he’s on screen he’s either doing some cheap slapstick or is trying to unsuccessfully woo Felicie. His lack of anything beyond comic relief makes the duo lag behind other animated team-ups like Nick and Judy from “Zootopia” or Hiccup and Astrid from “How to Train Your Dragon.”

Felicie herself had some good moments, her energy especially giving some life to sequences here and there. However, one of her actions early in the movie makes it a bit difficult to root for her as a protagonist and there’s an odd amount of focus on why Felicie wants to dance in the first place. Apparently just loving to dance wasn’t a good enough reason.

Probably the most endearing character in the movie was Odette, played by Carly Rae Jepsen. Her plight in going back into the world of dance by training Felicie is engaging, even with their meeting and subsequent friendship appearing to be a bit rushed.

All of the characters meet another hindrance, though, in the animation. While the film does feature some nice backdrops of Paris, the character animations are rather lackluster, facial expressions being a good example. There are also some animation gaps here and there throughout the film, for example, early in the movie there’s a scene with a lantern that turns on and off without anyone touching it.

I was also extremely disappointed with the film’s usage of modern pop music, even during scenes that were supposed to be set for ballet. The film even makes it a point to include The Nutcracker ballet as one of the shows that the dance school will put on, but they don’t use music from The Nutcracker.

“Leap!” overall was a below average film for much of its runtime, but there was enough there to warrant a 2 out of 5. However, the final sequence with Camille’s mother made the whole film jump the shark. 1 out of 5.