Where to begin with this one? Is it the flat, sub-Polar Express character designs? Those are certainly off-putting, but I’ve seen worse. Or do the badly placed modern pop songs throw the whole thing off-kilter? Again, they’re horrible, but not enough to derail the movie. It could simply be that this is the second incarnation of this particular project to make its way to audiences in the past year, after the original French-Canadian film Ballerina was released for the rest of the U.K. market then (bafflingly) redubbed for American cinemas. Whatever the case may be, nothing seems to have been done in the interim to make Leap! make a lick of sense or turn it into something I could ever imagine children sitting through for more than 10 minutes at a time.
We’re in trouble from the jump. The film more or less blasts off into its plot, involving runaway orphans Felicie (Elle Fanning) and Victor (Nat Wolff) as they make their grand escape from the clutches of the evil Luteau (Mel Brooks). Except, why are they escaping? I have no idea, and the movie never really even attempts to explain this. Luteau isn’t such a bad guy, but I guess breaking out and hitting the road for Paris to live your dream of being a ballerina or an inventor is as good a reason as any. Honestly, though, I’m mostly left wondering if modern audiences full of kids even have the pop cultural awareness that there are such things as orphanages? They used to be fairly common devices for kiddie wish fulfillment fare, but I’m not sure that’s still the case (maybe they remember the recent Annie remake?). In any event, the movie makes no sense and tries to glide along on charm alone, which it’s also sorely lacking, so make of that what you will.
Of the two runaways, only Felicie’s ballet story gets any attention from the script, and even then is just a watered-down Karate Kid (didn’t we just get one of those, too?) with a heavy-as-lead Follow Your Dreams theme haphazardly tossed on top. I want to say Victor is left offscreen for approximately 90 percent of the running time, making it even more bizarre that his voice was recast for this release. He whines about wanting to be a great inventor, gets a few quick minutes of wacky business every so often and is quickly forgotten.
For a character so heavily pimped by both the posters and trailers, I really hope there aren’t millions of Wolff fans out there whose parents are now going to have to write angry letters to Gaumont. If you are such a parent, I can tell you from experience that when you write angry letters to Gaumont about, say, the fact that your Region B DVD of Fairytales in Color was falsely advertised as being all-region, they will not respond. Gaumont does not care about what you think. This may not apply to Wolff fandom, but a word of advice, either way.