Plot: Felicie and her best friend Victor reside at an orphanage, but they have big dreams in mind, ones that require an escape. But the two have tried over and over, always getting caught or slipping up, though it never stops them from getting a new plan going soon after. Victor has a great new plan, one that would allow him to pursue his love of tinkering with new inventions and Felicie’s dream of being a ballet dancer, but they’ll need to make it to Paris. He intends to make this happen thanks to a new invention, the chicken wings, which will allow the two to take flight, then sail toward the train that travels to Paris. Of course, the plan doesn’t quite work out as they imagined, but with a little luck, the two wind up on the train and soon after, they arrive in Paris. But even though they’ve made it to the big city, can they find a path to their dreams or will reality teach them a harsh lesson?
Entertainment Value: A movie about a young girl’s dream of ballet stardom might not seem like it’s in my wheelhouse, but I love animation, so I was curious to check out Leap! for myself. The movie turns out to be a fun watch, even though it doesn’t do much that we haven’t seen before. While the story begins with both Felicie and Victor as the focus, the spotlight soon hones in on Felicie, which leaves Victor as a side thread that only comes in from time to time. I appreciated a female lead, especially one that doesn’t fall within the typical princess stereotype. Felicie is an awkward, but energetic lead that is a lot of fun to watch, especially as she interacts with the more refined, elegant characters around the dance studio. I also liked that while she does smooth some of her rough edges, even as she becomes a fixture of the studio, he doesn’t lose herself, which often happens in these kind of narratives. The story has some positive messages and plenty of mischief, including some slapstick set pieces and of course, a ballet dance battle for the ages. This might be the most original animated feature around, but it tells a worthwhile tale and is fun to watch.
The cast is led by Elle Fanning, who is fine in the lead role and gives Felicie the kind of awkward, nervous energy she needs. I found the performances overall to be more kind of reserved than the usual animated films, save a few roles that feature big, over the top personas. I appreciated the more restrained, natural performances, but I am sure some prefer the more exaggerated efforts. Both crowds can be satisfied here though, as we have those boisterous roles at times, as well as the more natural, subtle voice work in other characters. Mel Brooks has a small role and really reels in his energy levels, while Carly Rae Jepsen, Dane DeHaan, Maddie Ziegler, and Kate McKinnon provide some solid supporting roles. The animation is beautiful here, with rich details that make even the smallest touches in the world seem alive. The character designs are familiar, but I don’t think anyone will mind that. The movie has some big set pieces too, so the animation is really able to shine in those epic moments, as well as in the tiniest of details throughout the picture. In the end, Leap! is rock solid animated entertainment that anyone who appreciates animation should check out.