The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan



Leap! tackles slightly weightier subject matter than you normally find in animated features. This is a film about dreams and what it means when the goal you want to achieve more than anything else in the world seems to be hopelessly out of your reach. There is a truly inspiring message about perseverance for children, yet the movie also contains enough fun to drive that message home without feeling preachy.

Set during the late 1800s, it is the story of Felicie (voiced by Elle Fanning), a young girl who escapes an orphanage with best friend Victor (Nat Wolff). They make their way to Paris, where she hopes to gain admittance into the Grand Opera. Her dream is to become a ballet dancer.

Because she is penniless, there is no easy way for this to happen. Then she meets Odette (played by pop singer Carly Rae Jepsen), an injured former dancer now reduced to working as a housekeeper for a cruel wealthy woman named Regine (Kate McKinnon). Felicie helps Odette out, then poses as Regine's daughter to get into the ballet school, where a competition is being held to see which student will get to dance “The Nutcracker” with a noted ballerina. Of course, since she's had no formal training, the odds are greatly against Felicie.

Leap! has a few over-the-top elements that feel out of place with the proper story. A subplot about budding inventor Victor trying to build a set of functional wings pays off in a fantasy-driven way that's more successful on a metaphorical level than an emotional one. A romantic triangle between Felicie, Victor, and another male suitor doesn't work at all.

Those are very small sections of the movie, fortunately. By and large, Leap! is about how Felicie follows her dream. Despite numerous obstacles working against her, she trains daily under Odette, gives 100% of her efforts, and refuses to be diminished by setbacks. The movie is an ode to commitment – to doggedly pursuing whatever you feel your calling is. More specifically, Felicie learns that in order to accomplish her goal, she needs to let go of her fears and take risks. In many respects, this is the most substantial part of the story. Chasing your dream isn't always easy, Leap! tells young audiences, but learning how to harness your fear can be an extraordinarily powerful tool to have in your arsenal.

The animation here is quite good. Several characters perform complex dance routines, all of which are rendered exquisitely. You can tell a lot of care went into keeping the dance sequences as authentic as possible. It's admittedly anachronistic that a movie set in the 1800s has characters dancing to songs by Jepsen, Demi Lovato and Sia; the music does nicely accentuate the accompanying scenes, nonetheless.

Leap! is charming and frequently funny, with good performances from the voice cast. It stands apart from a lot of other recent animated features by saying something that kids will find useful in everyday life, and doing so with great warmth.

( out of four)

Leap! is rated PG for some impolite humor and action. The running time is 1 hour and 29 minutes.

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