Leap! (Eric Summer/Éric Warin, 2016) 1 out of 4 stars.
The only thing I hate more than disliking a movie is disliking one that has such obviously good intentions as Leap!, a Canadian-French co-production about a young girl (and her male sidekick) following her dreams. In some ways a lovely story (or at least an attempt at a lovely story), the film is marred by almost profoundly ugly animation, grating (and anachronistic) pop music, a complete disregard for historical chronology, a lack of understanding of the hard work that it takes to be an artist, and some pretty ripe dialogue. But hey, who’s counting? Other than that, it’s great!
Originally titled “Ballerina” (a much better title), Leap! begins in an orphanage in Brittany (located in the northwest of France)/. Felicie (pronounced in the American version as “Felicity,” with the last syllabus left off) and Victor, both longtime residents of said establishment, finally manage to escape to Paris after many failed attempts. She is voiced by Elle Fanning (20th Century Women) and he by Nat Wolff (The Intern). Once in the City of Light, Felicie hopes to join the ballet of the Grand Opera, while Victor hopes to become an inventor. Before they know it, they are each swept up in separate adventures – though we remain mostly with Felicie – that bring them closer to realizing their ambitions. Will Felicie succeed in dancing in The Nutcracker, even though she has to compete against girls who have been training their whole lives? What do you think?
Disney and Pixar this is not. Nor even Illumination. The characters move in an approximation of smooth animation (like an “uncanny valley” version of uncanny valley), which is tough to watch when the narrative is so focused on dance. Still, we get used to it. Worse is the music, which never lets up, throbbing cheap sentiment with every beat. And even more dreadful is the jumbled history, which confuses a variety of events from the last three decades of the 19th century, in the middle of which the film is supposed to take place. But perhaps the most insulting touch is the movie’s superficial appreciation of art, where we are to believe that in just a few short weeks our heroine can somehow become the ballerina she was always meant to be. At least the ultimate message is a positive one, and the villains get their comeuppance, but this is rough stuff, indeed.