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Eleven-year-old orphan Félicie (Elle Fanning) has one dream to go to Paris and become a dancer. Her best friend, Victor (Nat Wolff), an imaginative, exuberant boy with a passion for creating, has a dream of his own to become a famous inventor. In a leap of faith, Victor and Félicie leave their orphanage in pursuit of their passions. But there's a catch: Félicie must pretend to be the child of a wealthy family in order to gain admittance to the prestigious and competitive Opera Ballet School in Paris. And with no professional dance training, she quickly learns that talent alone is not enough to overcome the ruthless, conniving attitudes of her fellow classmates, led by the devious Camille Le Haut (Maddie Ziegler) and her wicked mother, Régine (Kate McKinnon). Determined to succeed, Félicie fi nds her mentor in the tough and mysterious school custodian, Odette (Carly Rae Jepsen), who, along with Victor's encouraging friendship, helps her reach for the stars.
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Content Notes for Parents: Absolutely nothing really offensive in terms of sex, violence, and crude language.
Canadian/US note: Something needs to be made clear, though to avoid confusion. Leap! is actually the USA repackaging of the French/Canadian "Balerina" film. Are there any differences? Well, I have only seen the American version, so I can't personally speak on that. But, I did do some reading up on the issue about the "Americanizing" of the film. On the one hand, you have one camp that condemn it profusely and paint this as a total travesty. On the other hand, you have the other side that has seen both and say that the Americanizing only changed 3 or 4 lines, plus added depth to otherwise minor (and miniscule) characters (including the Mom...witch adds to the main protagonist's depth by extension). The very last line of the film was also very much seen as a huge improvement. Still, the key difference, though is that the American version does change some of the dubbing cast. So, go ahead and take this information as you will, and I hope it helps you make a more informed decision.
The thing about this film is, if you are looking for something "unique", then you won't find it here. This is another perseverance/follow-your--dream kind of film. But that's not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, the story flows well and was rather enjoyable. The pace was fast, but satisfying...and I did find myself enjoying the characters in general. The visuals are simply stunning as well. I generally loved the song choices, too. They used a mix of classical, but also some pop based songs. Concerning the pop, I do appreciate that the majority of it was focused on the softer and more "wintry" kind of sound rather than completely going down the "true-pop" sound. It helped to keep the atmosphere consistent while putting out attractive songs for a younger audience (though older folks can appreciate it, too). It was just the last song (the seque to the credits one) that wasn't to my taste in terms of flow.
Themes: I already alluded to the perseverance/dreams theme. However, digging a little more, I really enjoyed that it didn't follow a completely straight path about it. It raised several issues about the performing arts world...especially the aspect of identity which serves as the foundation of the whole film. Through out the whole film, she says she wants to be a dancer because that is "her dream". But in the end, that reason was not, in fact, a true reason that lasts. Any musician, dancer, etc that has been at their craft for a fair amount of time. knows this simple truth...that it takes something much deeper than an "it's-my-dream" reason to build something sincerely beautiful.
All in All:
This film will be staying in my collection and I'm sure I'll be watching it many times when I need an inspiring pick me up. Solid story, enjoyable characters, and a surprisingly good exploration on the arts...especially considering this was intended for those of a younger audience. The extras, are neat as well, and I love that they utilized some of the leading ballerina's as reference points in building the animation and telling the story.
As I hinted at, the changes are for better as well. There are one or two places where dialog was added (mostly when you can't see a persons face) that do create more 'heart warming' moments, but overall, I think they should have left the movie as it was. Since I haven't found any real explanation as to why the movie was changed, my own opinion is that it was simply to add some name recognition with some more familiar actors.
To sum things up, I would still recommend this movie. I as well as the rest of my family think it is fantastic, but we were ruined by the original. Too bad the international version isn't region free (or at least I haven't found one).