Animated movies made in foreign countries don't usually get the best treatment here in the United States. With some exceptions including movies dubbed by GKIDS, they're usually dubbed very poorly and are given terrible scripts which usually make the movie absolutely appalling. The most notable example was a British film called "The Magic Roundabout" which was released under the name "Doogal" by The Weinstein Company back in 2006 and was subsequently panned by critics. Now we have a movie called "Leap!". A film about a girl dreaming to become a ballet dancer made by companies from both Canada and France and also dubbed into English, and sadly it doesn't really work at times. The movie does some aspects really well, but it also does some really badly. Here's what exactly happened.
In the late 1880s, an orphan girl named Félicie (Elle Fanning) runs away with her best friend Victor (Nat Wolff) to Paris to follow their dreams with the latter dreaming to become an inventor and the former destined to be a ballerina. They both become separated and Félicie eventually runs into a cleaner with a limp named Odette (Carly Rae Jepsen) who allows her to stay with her as a cleaner. She continues to do this until her music box, the only thing she owns from her mother, is destroyed by a snooty, bratty ballerina named Camille (Maddie Zeigler) who is the daughter of a famed restaurant owner (Kate McKinnon). Jealous, she intercepts a letter from the Paris Opera Ballet pretending to be Camille in hopes of becoming a famed ballerina. Knowing of her trick to getting in, Odette decides to secretly train Félicie in hopes that she can stay in the class and get to dance on stage with a famed ballet dancer in The Nutcracker.
I think it's interesting to note the different reception that the original French version and the American dub are receiving. Where the French version stands at a pretty good 74% on Rotten Tomatoes, the American one is at a pretty weak 37% and it's honestly not hard to see why. I'll go over the good parts of the film first. The story is actually pretty good. Though it did have a very rushed beginning, it gradually improved over time and I at least could care about the characters and dilemmas they were going through, particularly the relationship between Félicie and Odette whom I'll get to in a minute. The animation is absolutely stunning. It really is beautiful and I particularly loved looking at the very detailed backgrounds of Paris. Some of the characters are fine. Félicie was very nice and had some charm to her and Odette was actually a pretty good wise mentor character even though I've seen it before so many times. Now let's get to the bad stuff, and there is a lot. The biggest one I should get off my back is the dubbing. Oh wow, is it awful. Some of these actors are actually pretty talented too, yet they just give off awful performances. While actors like Carly Rae Jepsen and Terrence Scammell were decent, others like Maddie Zeigler, Nat Wolff and especially Elle Fanning were not only flat out terrible, but also badly miscast. Elle Fanning was great as Alice in the underrated J.J. Abrams' hit "Super 8", but here she was so bland and boring that I really believed that she didn't really care about the script. Another thing that I didn't like was Victor. This was a character that added nothing to the story, but only to contribute some really immature jokes which is something that I really hate in animated movies. Something that really bugged me too was the historical inaccuracies. The film shows the Eiffel Tower being partially constructed as well as the Statue of Liberty, which also already turned green, still in France before being shipped across the Atlantic yet in real life the Statue would already be in New York and actually look like copper by the time the Eiffel Tower started construction. However, the thing that I really hated the most about this film was the fact that it had so many pop songs. All they did was just really annoy me and also ruin pivotal moments in the film particularly a scene near the end which I won't spoil. Had they cut those darn things out and replaced them with an instrumental score, I'd probably be kinder to the movie.
"Leap!" is a very unbalanced movie. Though it does have a good story, fantastic animation, and some decent characters, it's also bogged down by terrible characters, bad voiceover work, historical inaccuracies, and pointless pop songs. If I were you, if you really wanted to see this movie, I'd recommend finding a copy of the French version and watching it with subtitles. I can guarantee that you'll have a better experience with that version of the film than this.