Movie Review: “Leap!” gets by on sweet

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In this, the summer that broke Hollywood animation, we take our small blessings where we can find them.

And The Weinstein Co. found its smallest of blessings in the French/Canadian ballet cartoon “Leap!” It’s a sweet, sentimental gotta-dance tale that finds a few laughs — mostly in the international language of fart jokes — but finds just a hint of magic in that ballet dancer’s wildest dream — to grand jete your way to fame in Paris.

It’s about a poor orphan — Mon dieu, is there any other kind? — who dreams of escaping Brittany — the Province, not the Spears — and dancing in Paris.  Felicie (voiced by Elle Fanning) has an accomplice, the smitten inventor orphan Victor (Nat Wolff).

She will go earn her slippers, and he will invent things that make his fortune in the Paris of Monsieur Eiffel. The Eiffel Tower is under construction, the Statue of Liberty is being fabricated, and they barely escape the warder of the orphanage (Mel Brooks) who chases them on what would have had to have been the world’s first motorcycle.

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Victor’s unrequited love drives his inventions and his ambition. His “chicken” wings need perfecting, and Eiffel’s 1885 workshop is as good a place as any to make his way in “The Windy City” (sic).

Felicie preaches “We should never give up on our dreams,” but she has about as much chance cracking into “The Nutcracker” as a housemaid — which is what Odette (Carly Rae Jepsen) does for a living, a limping one-time dancer who reluctantly takes Felicie on as an assistant and dance pupil.

The mean girl ballerina (Maddie Ziegler) who lives in the house Odette cleans lords it over Felicie, labeling her “Little RAT.” “You’re nothing. I’m a star! You’re just orbiting around me!” Her Cruella-ish mom (Kate McKinnon) is worse.

But then there’s a purloined invitation to try out for the school of the Ballet de Paris, and Felicie cheats her way in. There’ll be no stopping her….if the gawky girl can learn the five pose positions of the classical ballerina, gain command of the barre, and actually learn how to dance. In, you know, a day or two.

There are temptations by the prettiest Russian boy in ballet school, a rowdy dance interlude or two, some slow-motion fart jokes and a couple of sharp observations about the nature of dance training.

“It’s when you’re tired that you start to progress,” and “To pirouette you must become mistress of your dizziness!”

It’s more sweet than silly, and while the period Paris backdrops are grand, the animation is kind of Pixar 3.0 in terms of mastering human facial expressions — years behind what Hollywood’s best are producing these days.

That said, it’s not a leap to call “Leap!” perfectly watchable, if entirely too bland dull for the very young — especially the hyper-active.

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MPAA:PG for some impolite humor (fart jokes), and action

Cast: The voices of Elle Fanning, Carly Rae Jepsen, NBat Wolff, Mel Brooks, Kate McKinnon

Credits:  Directed by Eric Summer and Eric Warin, script by Carol Noble, Laurent Zeitoun and Eric Summer. A Weinstein Co. release.

Running time: 1:29

 

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