Movie Review: ‘Leap!’ Can Only Inspire Aspiring Ballerinas If They’re Unfamiliar with the Uncanny Valley

CREDIT: The Weinstein Company

Starring: Elle Fanning, Nat Wolff, Carly Rae Jepsen, Maddie Ziegler, Kate McKinnon, Mel Brooks

Directors: Éric Summer and Éric Warin

Running Time: 89 Minutes

Rating: PG for Lightly Disturbing Stage Motherhood

Release Date: August 25, 2017

Hey guys, I know there are a lot of terrible things going on in the world that we need to be worried about, but there is yet one more thing I need to alert you about. Apparently the French are not so keen about orphans joining their prestigious ballet companies. Luckily, an animated movie now exists to inspire aspiring ballerinas to keep their heads up no matter where they are from! That movie is Leap!, but alas, its cookie-cutter CG animation, far from inspirational itself, is instead liable to call to mind the most bizarre cartoon you only discover in your most desperate Netflix binges. Oh well, at least it gives us an excuse to start a campaign to get Carly Rae Jepsen a Best Original Song Oscar.

The plot is the same as any inspirational animated kids movie: a misfit tries to sneak her way into the big time, where she must withstand the arrogance of the gatekeepers and the ruthlessness of her rivals, but she stands just enough of a chance for success, thanks to her own boundless gumption and a somewhat mysterious mentor figure who finds the room in her heart to train her. The whole affair is kind-spirited enough that even the most morally lacking characters in the ballet world are easily redeemed by the end. If you are an aspiring ballerina yourself, or have one in your life, you may derive value from watching Leap! For everyone else, the whole endeavor may be too disorienting to have any demonstrable results.

Leap! is an international co-production with two French directors, and accordingly it often has a vibe of being lost in translation. Characters respond to each other with lines that do not quite make sense. Dialogue is often offscreen, frequently resulting in a weird sensation in which the words sound simultaneously nearby and far away. These are the sorts of uncanny valley effects that slightly subpar CG animation always runs the risk of featuring. At least the conclusion is a satisfying reprieve from all that: as Jepsen’s sublimely buoyant “Cut to the Feeling” cuts in during the credits, it is like a marvelous return to the real world.

Leap! is Recommended If You Like: Ice Princess, Hallucinating from Inexplicably Weird Animation, Carly Rae Jepsen completism

Grade: 2.25 out of 5 Depressed Elephants

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