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Forgettable animated movie ‘Leap!’ limps into theaters

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Felicie and Victor take in the sights or Paris in Leap!.
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Two and a half stars

Leap! Voices of Elle Fanning, Carly Rae Jepsen, Nat Wolff. Directed by Éric Summer and Éric Warin. Rated PG. Opens Friday citywide.

An international co-production with an English-language voice cast that was released in Europe nearly a year ago and has had its American opening pushed numerous times, animated movie Leap! plays like it was designed to be as inoffensive and bland as possible, to most effectively appeal to every audience its financial backers needed to satisfy. That, of course, is a good way to satisfy no one, and although the movie is easy enough to watch, it leaves essentially no impression once it’s over. Set in France during the late 19th century, Leap! follows plucky orphan girl Félicie (voiced by Elle Fanning) as she travels to Paris along with her best friend Victor (Nat Wolff) to pursue her dream of becoming a ballet dancer (the movie was released overseas with the ultra-generic title Ballerina).

Cue standard life lessons about believing in yourself and never giving up, as Félicie must contend with a demanding ballet instructor, a snooty rich rival (voiced by reality-TV dance star Maddie Ziegler) and the romantic affections of both Victor and a dashing Russian classmate. The time period and the Paris setting mean that the movie can throw in a last-minute action sequence set on the under-construction Statue of Liberty (for the American audience) along with a romantic evening atop the brand-new Eiffel Tower (for the Europeans).

The animation by Montreal-based studio L’Atelier Animation is serviceable, the voice work (including Carly Rae Jepsen as Félicie’s mentor with Meaningful Past Trauma, plus added wacky performances by Mel Brooks and Kate McKinnon for the U.S. release) is adequate, and the story wraps up exactly as expected in under 90 minutes. The best part of the movie is Jepsen’s monster pop anthem “Cut to the Feeling,” which bursts out during the climactic dance scene (never mind that it’s a 19th-century ballet). A cutely animated Carly Rae visual album would have been a lot more memorable.

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