In the 2016 film Leap! a young girl named Felicie (Elle Fanning) dreams of becoming a dancer. Living in an orphanage in France’s rural Brittany, she frequently tries to escape with her best friend, an aspiring inventor named Victor (Nat Wolff). When she and Victor finally manage to escape one night, they are separated in Paris and try to make their dreams happen. Felicie ends up a cleaning girl with an older woman, Odette (Carly Rae Jepsen), at a large mansion where a fellow aspiring ballerina named Camille (Maddie Ziegler) lives and trains with her very rich mother. After Camille breaks Felicie’s music box, Felicie steals Camille’s identity and acceptance letter to the Paris Opera Ballet where she gets her big shot at becoming a dancer.
The animation in Leap! is stunning. While the dancers all have abnormally long legs, it’s easy to overlook seeing as the film is about ballet where the dancer’s bodies have to look as long as possible. But, really, who comes to an animated film for realism? What matters in this film is the beauty of the animation and the character Odette and her relationship with the school’s choreographer Merante. While this is Felicie’s story, Odette happens to be a far more interesting character. I feel that she was given an opportunity to flourish in the amount of time she was on screen.
The story for the film felt a bit Black Swan and Phantom of the Opera to me only without the psychological problems and an opera ghost haunting the premises. Being set in 1800s Paris, it was quite nice to see the Paris Opera as it might have been in its heyday. Though it does look a lot like the fictional Opera Populaire from Phantom, which is probably why the film gave me big Phantom vibes. Either way, the Paris depicted here is bright and well executed. To put it simply, the animation truly is stunning for not being a Dreamworks or Disney/Pixar production. It drew me in and I felt that I was watching Paris come to life right before my eyes. The animators really did a great job.
Even the character design was stunning. All the characters had their own look that was distinctive even if a few of the characters seemed a bit stereotypical for an orphan story. Perhaps the prettiest character, for me, was Odette and that’s probably because I’m always drawn to the damaged characters. Odette, the poor woman, is damaged. She walks with a limp, is jaded, and wants nothing to do with Felicie until she sees the young girl’s determination even if she did get in the Paris Opera Ballet school through deception.
Odette’s character arc is definitely the most interesting arc in the film. If the filmmakers had made this story about her and not about Felicie, then I would have been equally as enthralled, perhaps even more. As it is, the audience gets very little about her past other than the fact that she was a prima ballerina and was more than likely injured in something like a fire at the opera house (more Phantom allusions) that left her injured. Beyond that, though, is the story of Odette and Merante. Their relationship is beautiful and I wanted more. I wanted more of them interacting. I wanted more of them being super cute and obviously in love. The filmmakers really missed the mark and definitely should have focused on them instead of Felicie, sad to say.
Leap! is still a cute story about following your dreams and never stopping until you reach those dreams. It’s a typical children’s story but it was fun to watch and if you have little ones, I’m sure it would be an even better experience.