In an effort to make girls heroes in animated films, the pendulum has swung so far that boys — who make up half the kid audience — may have trouble finding new characters to look up to. Or, girls have to be endowed with magically acquired superhuman powers. “Leap” doesn’t do either of those things.
Released nationwide on Friday, Aug. 25, the Canadian/French production follows two French teens in the 1880s — aspiring dancer Felicie (Elle Fanning) and aspiring inventor Victor (Nat Wolff) — who dodge the overseer (Mel Brooks) of their rural orphanage and head to Paris to pursue their dreams.
Felicie winds up taken in by Odette (Carly Rae Jepsen) the caretaker of the Opera Ballet School — who suffers from a painful limp — while Victor is apprenticed to Gustave Eiffel, creator of the Eiffel Tower.
Mistaken for a haughty wealthy woman’s daughter (Maddie Ziegler), Felicie is able to take instruction at the school, where her natural talent runs up against tough competition. But, with Odette’s help and work ethic, she gradually blossoms into a top ballerina — but the deception can’t last forever.
Meanwhile, Victor makes his own way in Eiffel’s workshop, while still laboring over his own designs, including a hang-glider/wings contraption. He realizes his own blossoming feelings for Felicie, but is dismayed to see that a suave young ballet dancer (Tamir Kapelian) also has his eye on her.
Along the way, the brilliantly colored, detailed animation weaves classical ballet with Irish dance (reminiscent of a similar scene in “Titanic”) and modern moves.
It’s definitely a girl-power movie, but a few things set it apart. First of all, Felicie doesn’t have superpowers, so she succeeds on her own God-given human talents, augmented with a lot of hard work and grit. She also doesn’t want to break into an arena reserved for boys — instead, she wants to succeed in ballet, where women have long been stars.
While Felicie is pursuing her dream, Victor is also seen pursuing his. He never gives up on being an inventor, while still cheerleading Felicie’s quest.
In the end, it’s a combination of both of their talents and hard work that wins the day.
“Leap” is charming, fast without being frenetic — as too many kids’ animated movies are these days — beautifully rendered, blessedly free of questionable morality, and a paean to the power of aspiration paired with determination, effort and persistence.
Here’s the trailer:
And click here for USA Today’s premiere of another trailer featuring the song “Cut to the Feeling,” by Carly Rae Jepsen.
Image: Courtesy The Weinstein Company
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