Story unfolds in 1880s France but that doesn’t stop its creators for slipping an MC Hammer joke into the mix
Correction: This story has been updated to correct the name of the actor providing the voice of Victor.
A young orphan dreams of becoming a ballerina in “Leap!,” an animated fairytale that adheres to formula, but manages to stick its landing.
There’s nothing particularly new or revelatory in this story, which unfolds in 1880s France. Felicie (voice of Elle Fanning) and Victor (Nat Wolff) are two orphans in rural Brittany who flee one night and hop a train to Paris. There, Felicie sneaks into the Paris Opera Ballet and is taken with the ballerinas. She hopes to one day become one herself, despite her lack of formal training.
Through a minor instance of identity theft — all is fair in children’s animated tales — Felicie gets herself enrolled in the school. There’s an upcoming production of “The Nutcracker,” and one of the students will earn a role, if they can survive the vicious cuts of demanding dance instructor Mérante (Terrence Scammell).
“Leap!” isn’t as fluent in its animation as what we’re used tofrom the top animation houses; the characters’ eyes are lifeless and their skin is rigid, like they’re modeled after action figures, not real people.
Those technical issues aside, “Leap!” tells a routine inspirational story that, once it gets going, hits the notes it needs to in order to work. And that story is universal enough to cross barriers of language and region; the film was released overseas late last year, and arrives here after a lengthy delay.
Among its pluses: an old-fashioned dance off set to a modern Demi Lovato song — before it was released in 2015, it was apparently a hit in the late 1800s — and a weird, unexpected MC Hammer reference. But its story of a young dreamer is enough to make this tale jump for joy.
Rated PG for some impolite humor, and action
Running time: 90 minutes