Forget the self-help books and after-work drink. If you’re looking to feel better, just turn off the news and go see Leap. You’re guaranteed to leave with a smile.
Leap is a little rough around the edges, but you won’t mind at all because its positivity is downright contagious. It has all the verve and sprightliness of a kid hopped up on sugar, which is necessary to keep pace with its starry-eyed main characters: two orphans who make their way from rural France to a utopian version of Paris in pursuit of changing their lives for the better. Couldn’t we all do with a little bit of that optimism?
It’s the sort of film that you can’t help but smile at. Its infectious warmth makes it easy to forgive its foibles, and its bright and boisterous animation is perfectly suited to its bouncy, if a little too familiar, plot. You’re even able to overlook this familiarity, as there’s always a well-timed moment that does just enough to charm and entrance.
Leap is set in the 1880s, opening in an orphanage in rural France. While their surroundings are more than dire, and they repeatedly found themselves under attack from its supervisor M. Luteau (Mel Brooks), 11-year-old Felice and her best friend Victor manage to keep each-others’ spirits high. They mostly do this by detailing how rich and successful they’re going to be as a ballerina and inventor, respectively, in the very near future.
After finally breaking out of the orphanage, and just out of the grasp of Luteau, the pair are given the opportunity to fulfil their dreams when they trek to Paris. Almost immediately, Felice is contesting to become a leading ballerina at the celebrated school of the Paris Opera Ballet, a position she acquired by stealing someone’s identity. But despite having the necessary raw talent, her skills need to honed by both the exacting ballet instructor Merante, and the mysterious caretaker, former prima ballerina Odette. Juggling this opportunity and its demands with Victor puts their friendship to the test.
It is not hard to work out where Leap is heading. Mostly because it signposts do just that very clearly. But that doesn’t really matter, as the vocal performances just keep pulling you in. Elle Fanning is sweet and compelling as Felice, Nat Wolff is incorrigible as Victor, while Carly Rae Jepson, Terrence Scammell, Kate McKinnon and particularly Mel Brooks’ personalities are all perfectly suited to their roles, as they enhance and make each part sparkle, even if the characters themselves are far from original. Ultimately, there’s something comforting about the familiarity that leaves you free to enjoy Leap for exactly what it is.
And Leap is very much aware of exactly what it is: It’s a softly-centered modern fairy tale that takes full advantage of its whimsical period and romantic location. While it isn’t funny or original enough to cross the threshold into truly memorable, its sweetness and tenderness will undoubtedly lift your spirits — which is something that we all need a dose of in the current climate.