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Reel Review - LEAP
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LEAP

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Rating: PG-13

Genre: Kids / Animation / Comedy / Action/Adventure

Directed By: Éric Summer and Éric Warin

Written by: Éric Summer

Runtime: 89 Minutes

Cast: Vocies of Elle Fanning as Félicie Milliner; Nat Wolff as Victor; Carly Rae Jepsen as Odette; Kate McKinnon as Régine Le Haut/Mother Superior/Felicie's Mother; Mel Brooks as M. Luteau; Maddie Ziegler as Camille Le Haut; Terrence Scammell as Mérante; Tamir Kapelian as Rudolph


MOVIE PREVIEW by Adam R Holz - PluggedIn




The words happy and orphanage almost never get lumped into the same sentence. No, orphanages tend to be places of desperation and deprivation. (At least in the movies, anyway.) Dreams simply do not take flight in their claustrophobic, cinematic confines—especially the late 19th-century, Catholic kind found in France. But no one ever told Félicie.

Oh, there's no shortage of soul-crushing work to be done at her orphanage, to be sure: sweeping, cleaning and keeping the nuns happy. Still, Félicie harbors a cherished dream: becoming a ballet dancer in Paris. Even as she tends to the mundane chores assigned to her, she does so with irrepressible flare, singing and dancing as she works.

When she's not trying to escape, that is. And try, Félicie does. A lot. But she's stymied by the nuns' omnipresent security toady, M. Luteau, a bulbous man whose chameleon-like eyes wander in disturbingly different directions (giving him, one presumes, a distinct advantage when it comes to spying crafty waifs trying to escape via the rooftop).

Then, one fine day, Félicie and her best friend, Victor, manage to elude M. Luteau's heated pursuit.

Paris awaits. Presumably, so does the fulfillment of these two runaway orphans' dreams. Félicie hopes to waltz into the City of Lights and dazzle its residents with her effervescent spirit. Victor, meanwhile, longs to become a world-famous inventor.

No sooner have they arrived, however, than their paths diverge accidentally—in more ways than one.

Victor begins working for a certain tower-building architect by the name of Eiffel. In seems Victor's dreams of becoming an inventor might be off to a good start. Félicie, for her part, quickly locates the ballet … and almost as quickly gets kicked out.

In the process, though, she meets a hobbled woman named Odette who keeps the place clean. Odette takes Félicie in, introducing her to the family she serves as a housekeeper: the Le Hauts.

Matriarch Régine Le Haut pushes her daughter, Camille, to the breaking point in her own ballet training. The goal? To earn a coveted invitation to dance in an upcoming production of The Nutcracker. But when Félicie intercepts that tryout invitation in the mail, Camille and Régine are none the wiser. Posing as Camille, Félicie is determined (with Odette's help) to make the most of her "fortuitous" shot at making her dreams come true.

What she lacks in raw ability, Félicie makes up for with moxie—earning the grudging admiration of the ballet's head dance instructor, Mérante. Suddenly, Félicie's dream seems tantalizingly within reach. Then again, happily ever after stories generally aren't built on deception.

POSITIVE ELEMENTS
Leap! follows a familiar template: a lovable, talented but anonymous young girl clinging tenaciously to her dream and doing everything possible to make it happen. Félicie's determination and drive are admirable, even if some of the decisions she makes pursuing her dream aren't.

Odette, for her part, plays a significant, mother-like role in honing Félicie's ballet skills. And the older woman is mostly patient with the young girl's headstrong unwillingness to listen at times. Likewise, Victor would do anything to help the friend he's secretly come to admire as more than a friend—and Félicie's at times self-absorbed choices test their relationship as well.

Félicie treats Victor quite badly for a time, but he accepts her eventual apology and helps her take one last stab at making her dream of becoming a ballerina come true.

At a point of deep discouragement, Félicie recalls (in a dream) this encouraging counsel from her mother: "No matter what happens, never give up on your dreams. If you never leap, you'll never know what it's like to fly."

SPIRITUAL CONTENT
The prison-like orphanage in the story is run by stern, sometimes cruel, Catholic nuns. But apart from that context, there's no other spiritual content.

SEXUAL CONTENT
A dashing Russian ballet dancer named Rudolf repeatedly attempts to sweep Félicie off her feet, and nearly succeeds in doing so.

Victor calls Félicie his "girlfriend," at one point, a label she's not yet ready to accept (though they do share a kiss in the end). Victor mistakenly calls the Statue of Liberty (which is also under construction) the Statue of Puberty.

VIOLENT CONTENT
Félicie and Victor flee the orphanage in a wagon that rolls downhill as M. Luteau pursues them on a motorcycle, a chase that's predictably filled with old-school pratfalls.

A second, melodramatic chase involves Régine wildly pursuing Félicie up the unfinished Eiffel Tower, where Félicie is rescued from peril by Victor and one of his inventions.

Victor repeatedly (and comically) bangs his head on hard objects. Eieffel throws tools at him, too. M. Luteau falls three times on a pointy rooftop, each time on his crotch. After another wince-inducing moment, he says, "Pain, pain, pain, such pain."

Victor and Rudolf eventually face off in a comedic fight with each other (that, predictably, includes yet another low blow). Félicie takes some hard falls during training.

CRUDE OR PROFANE LANGUAGE
Perhaps one muffled use of "oh my god." Name-calling includes "stupid," "idiots" and "fool." Someone says, "Your dancing sucks."

DRUG AND ALCOHOL CONTENT
Victor and Félicie visit a raucous tavern, where Félicie dances as many sloshing mugs are raised in salute.

OTHER NEGATIVE ELEMENTS
The orphanage is depicted as a grim place. That said, Félicie and Victor's desire to flee it is still a very risky choice. The Mother Superior at the orphanage intentionally tries to snuff out Félicie's dreams, telling the girl, "All the world has a dream, but get this through your head: Dreams are not reality."

Félicie's deception in stealing Camille's identity initially seems to pay off, as it moves her closer to achieving her dream. It's eventually uncovered, however, and Félicie does have to face some consequences because of it.

Odette proves a deeply committed friend and mentor to Félicie, but she's got a rough edge at first due to significant disappointments in her own life. ("I hate kids," she says when they first meet. "Especially orphans.")

Multiple characters climb on buildings' roofs (the orphanage, the ballet, etc.). Parisian pigeons have a habit of dropping their droppings on Victor. Camille treats Félicie cruelly, throwing a cherished music box of hers out the window.

Victor loudly passes gas. Another scene at a bar involves him combining that activity with a lighter. He also blows his nose loudly. We hear a verbal reference about someone vomiting.

CONCLUSION
Leap! tells a story that feels like so many others we've seen before. (Especially from Disney.) But its familiarity doesn't diminish its charm.

Félicie certainly makes some poor decisions. No doubt about it. Chief among them is stealing Camille Le Haut's identity to achieve her own dreams. And even though the orphanage where she lives isn't exactly a nurturing environment, running away from it isn't the wisest choice she and Victor make either. Apart from Odette's willingness to take in the homeless orphan, Félicie would have been in vulnerable straits indeed.

Still, this is a fairy tale of sorts. It's not intended as a realistic cautionary tale. Rather, it's one that encourages youngsters—young girls, especially—to have the courage to pursue their dreams. And as long as parents are providing some wise boundaries and realistic counsel alongside them, it's the kind of story that can encourage them to consider what kind of leaps they, too, might make as they ponder the passions God has placed in their hearts.