Leap! is a cute film about a ballet dancer who is full of heart.
Eric Summer and Eric Warin co-direct the animated film. The screenplay is written by Carol Noble & Laurent Zeitoun & Eric Summer. The film stars Elle Fanning, Nat Wolff, Maddie Ziegler, with Mel Brooks, featuring Carly Rae Jespen and Kate McKinnon. McKinnon proves to be a triple threat in multiple roles of Régine, Mother Superior, and Félicie’s Mother.
All Félicie (Fanning) wants to do is go to Paris in order to fulfill her dreams of attending the becoming a dancer. The road isn’t easy for the 11-year-old orphan. Together with her best friend, Victor (Wolff, who replaces Dane DeHaan in the voice role for the American release), they make an escape for it after escaping the reaches of Luteau (Brooks). Victor has some passions of his own with a dream to become a famous inventor one day. He invents a device called the Chicken Wings, not realizing that chicken can’t fly.
Once arriving in Paris, it’s not an easy ride for Félicie but there is no quit in her. After sneaking into the Palais Garnier, the Paris Opera House, she spots a dancer and is amazed by the moves she shes. Of course, she is quickly kicked out but she chases down Odette (Jespen), a former ballet dancer herself. Stealing the identity of Camille Le Haut (Ziegler), she realizes that there’s more here than meets the eye. She’s not a dancer so she’s going to have to work harder than ever while hoping that Merante doesn’t kick her out of the class. Odette is hesitant to get involved but realizes how Félicie is like her and offers to train her.
Learning that her daughter’s spot in school was stolen, Régine (Kate McKinnon) does whatever it takes to make sure Félicie is taken out of the picture. With her spirits down, all seems lost but then Luteau surprises us all by taking her back to Paris. Reuniting with Odette, we find out the meaning of what having a heart means. Camille dances without emotion whereas Félicie brings nothing but heart to her dancing.
Towards the end of the film as Demi Lovato’s “Complicated” plays in the background, Félicie and Camille have a dance-off sporting moves known as arabesques and sidesteps. Camille is arrogant and, in many ways, she reminds me of Hayden Panettiere’s Gen Harwood in Ice Princess.
The question that Félicie has to answer to Merante, an instructor at the Opera Ballet School who is auditioning ballerinas for the part of Clara in the premiere of The Nutcracker, is simply this: “Why do you dance?” To which she responds: “Because dance has always been part of my life. It was there with my mother when I was a baby… And it’s there today, thanks to Odette…Dance helps me to live… to be myself.”
The fact that this film was made for only $30 million is truly astonishing. I was moved and blown away by what I saw on screen. It’s on my short list of the best animated films that I have seen in 2017.
After the film made its world premiere in late 2016, The Weinstein Company opens Leap! in the US on August 25, 2017.