Leap! is far from the first lackluster CGI-animated film. But it is the first that I’ve seen that is disorienting to watch. The characters never stay in scale with their environment, appearing as giants in one scene and miniature plastic dolls in another. Sometimes rooms seem empty and wide open, then another angle features those spaces as cluttered and claustrophobic. And the way the characters’ mouths move feel as if they were designed at an animation studio in Asia but then dubbed over with English dialogue. It’s one thing to not entertain your audience, but its another to make them feel uncomfortably. Sadly, this is what Leap! has accomplished.
Leap! follows the story of a supposedly 11-year-old orphan named Felicie as she escapes her life at an orphanage with her friend Victor in hopes of becoming a ballerina in Paris. I say supposedly 11, because the movie treats Felicie and Victor as if they’re teens or even two pals in their early twenties. There’s a particularly weird scene where Felicie and Victor head into a bar and Felicie is dancing on top of tables as patrons clap on in tune with music playing. It’s kind of weird that they’re so open to an 11-year-old dancing in their bar, and that Felicie is able just to do her own thing without repercussion.
Sure, it’s a movie, but it’s a weird kind of character and storytelling dissonance that makes Leap! fall flat. None of the other characters besides Felicie are interesting in any way, with her dance instructor being so awfully one-note in his maliciousness we’re just exasperated anytime he pops up on screen. Still, there’s something to be appreciated about this movie for trying something different, the concept of the story of a girl trying to become a ballerina in early 20th century Paris is something that is pretty unique. What Leap! fails in execution is translating that concept to an actual story, where we’re only left with hackneyed animation and an overused, diluted message of “follow your dreams.” That message doesn’t so much apply to me as an adult, but I can say pretty confidently kids won’t be dreaming about this flick once they’ve finished watching.