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The animated adventure Leap! takes place in the shadow of a partially erected Eiffel Tower, perhaps to symbolize that each person is a great work under construction. True enough, although real-life dreamers should heed Psalm 127’s caution: “Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.”
Some are born into a beautiful house, but not so Felicie (voiced by Elle Fanning) and Victor (Dane DeHaan), who’ve lived their first 12 or so years in an orphanage in the French countryside. Victor aspires to be an inventor, and Felicie a ballet dancer.
The two best friends escape the orphanage and flee to Paris, where Victor takes up with Gustave Eiffel. Felicie finds shelter with Odette (Carly Rae Jepsen), a cleaning woman who works at the prestigious ballet school where Felicie, energetic but untrained, wants to study. Odette also cleans house for the wealthy Mme Le Haut (Julie Khaner). To gain admittance into ballet class, Felicie assumes the identity of Mme Le Haut’s daughter, Camille (Maddie Ziegler). The ballet students are competing for a prominent role in The Nutcracker. But standing between Felicie and happiness is Mme Le Haut—picture Cruella de Vil as a helicopter parent—who wants Camille to win the role more than Camille does.
Leap! is rated PG for action and some impolite humor, but multiple instances of adults kissing the back of kids’ hands got weird. And clichés pave the way to the predictable ending.
“If you never leap, you’ll never know what it’s like to fly,” Felicie imagines her mother telling her.
Still, the film’s joie de vivre, curiously drawn faces, and offbeat humor make for a charming story. Little girls will want to leap: The many graceful arabesques and jetés set to a thumping pop soundtrack are sure to swell enrollment at ballet schools.