Leap! Mostly en Pointe!

Felicie Milliner (voice of Elle Fanning) and Victor (voice of Nat Wolff) examine Fe?licie's broken musicbox in Leap!

Felicie Milliner (voice of Elle Fanning) and Victor (voice of Nat Wolff) examine Felicie’s broken musicbox in Leap!

By Sandra Olmsted

For those who dream of being a ballet dancer, especially girls, directors Eric Summer and Éric Warin have tried their best with Leap! to make an animated film that fulfills that wish. Félicie (voice of Elle Fanning) 11-year-old orphan, struggles against many odds in hopes of attaining her dream. Fellow orphan Victor (voice of Nat Wolff in the American version) dreams of being a great inventor and masterminds their escape from the orphanage and gets them to the city of their dreams, Paris! Almost immediately, the two are accidentally separated and must pursue their very different dreams alone in the City of Lights, circa 1879.

While Victor falls in with the crowd of innovators building the Eiffel Tower and Statue of Liberty, Félicie sneaks into the prestigious Opera Ballet School. Once inside she runs afoul of the powers that be. She soon begs friendship from Odette (voice of singer Carly Rae Jepson), a young woman with a limp yet dancer’s movements who cleans the building. Odette also works for the villain of the story, Madame Le Haut (Kate McKinnon), a nasty stage mother and cruel employer. Odette allows Félicie to say with her as long as she helps clean for the Le Haut’s. There Félicie meets Camille (Maddie Ziegler), the family’s spoiled daughter, who is waiting for her invitation to audition at the Opera Ballet School. Camille has spent many years training for this moment because that is what her mother wants.

Camille heartlessly breaks Félicie’s music box, which was with her when she was left on the orphanage’s doorstep as a baby. By then, Félicie and Victor have reconnected, and he repairs her music box, which gets damaged or nearly lost several times. When Camille’s invitation to audition arrives, Félicie vengefully takes the invitation and goes to the audition. Félicie gets into the school her own love of dancing and on the merits of the Le Haut’s business connections, yet she knows nothing about ballet. Each day one student in the class will be eliminated from the tryouts for the performance of The Nutcracker. If Félicie can work hard enough and learn fast enough, she may be able to not miss out on her dream. She gets assistance from some surprising sources, and others hinder her.

Although there are numerous, glaring historical inaccuracies in the film, such as the poem on the Statue of Liberty and Félicie wearing denim short shorts, Leap! has bigger problems. The main one is that story promises some satisfying ends that never materialize, such as Félicie’s beloved music box which should, it seems, lead to her finding her mother. The story, therefore, seems to be unresolved after investing the audience in red herrings, such as the music box. On the plus side, the animated choreography is based on the dancing of Aurélie Dupont and Jérémie Bélingard, two star dancers of the Paris Opera Ballet, so the realistic ballet moves are inspiring.

While the use of modern music, such as Jepson’s “Cut to the Feeling” and “Runaways” and Sia’s “Suitcase” might bother some, it has been done before and is certain to engage the young audience for which the film is intended. The Weinstein Company released this co-production by France and Canada which was released elsewhere under Ballerina. Leap! is rated PG for some impolite humor, and action and runs a perky 89 minutes. Leap! is in theaters now and should provide good entertainment for the grade school and pre-teen crowd.

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