Eleven-year-old orphan Félicie (Elle Fanning) has one dream – to go to Paris and become a dancer. Her best friend Victor (Nat Wolff), an imaginative but exhausting boy with a passion for creating, has a dream of his own – to become a famous inventor. In a leap of faith, Victor and Félicie leave their orphanage in pursuit of their passions. But – there’s a catch, Félicie must pretend to be the child of a wealthy family in order to gain admittance to the prestigious and competitive Opera Ballet School in Paris. And with no professional dance training, she quickly learns that talent alone is not enough to overcome the ruthless, conniving attitudes of her fellow classmates, led by the devious Camille Le Haut (Maddie Ziegler) and her wicked mother Régine (Kate McKinnon). Determined to succeed, Félicie finds her mentor in the tough and mysterious school custodian, Odette (Carly Rae Jepsen) who, along with Victor’s encouraging friendship, help her reach for the stars.
Watching “Leap!” felt a little like going back in time. Not necessarily because of the setting of the story in 19th century France, but more because the nature of the movie felt like 20 years ago. Actually, in a nice way. The dialogue was simple and the characters were a bit rough; and I took a deliberate mental shift to settle into the foreign-feeling production. That’s when Leap! leapt.
It’s easy to sit back, and enjoy this delightful story of a young orphan’s dream to dance ballet. The animation is quirky and gorgeous. It’s France and the ballet – what’s not to like?! The story is of Félicie and Victor, escaping their oppressive orphanage run by a stern Catholic-esque nun (complete with a goofy but well-intended sidekick) to pursue their fantastic dreams in the boundless thrill of Paris. We adventure with Félicie as she faces hardship and obstacles to becoming a dancer and at a pivotal moment, she seizes an opportunity to step into another dancer’s shoes. Literally. She steals the identity of the spoiled rotten Camille and that bad decision sets the stage for a twisty story that’s peppered with a great mix of good, evil, raucous and beautiful characters.
The orphans seem to be high school age, but they look too young for the teeny romantic story that gets clunked in the middle of the action. Overall, the characters are drawn better than they’re developed, so go in with a expectation of a light, breezy adventure that’s well-suited for the whole family, and you will leave with some nice examples of kindness, hard work and the reward of following the true passion of your heart.