As far back as Felicie can remember, she’s wanted to dance. Maybe that’s due to her birth mom, who placed her in an orphanage as a baby and left her with a ballerina-themed music box that Felicie always has treasured.
It’s the only physical connection she has to her biological past.
Felicie, though, isn’t content with just dreaming about dancing. This energetic, tween-aged carrot top wants to run away from the orphanage and train at one of the world’s top ballet schools. Perhaps one in Paris! But how will she do that?
Her good friend and fellow orphan Victor has a plan: They’ll escape the orphanage in the middle of the night, hop on a train, and then make their way to Paris … where all her dreams supposedly will come true.
They do make their way to Paris, but they soon discover that 1880s France isn’t very hospitable to orphans. In fact, it’s downright hostile. Their plight worsens when they are separated in the big city, forcing Felicie (Elle Fanning) to make it on her own.
The animated Leap! (PG) opens this weekend, giving us a story about a girl who has a passion for ballet and won’t give up, no matter the circumstances.
It’s one of the more family-friendly movies you’ll ever see, even if does contain a couple of ethical/worldview concerns.
Here’s what parents need to know:
Warning: minor spoilers!
1. Felicie lies to get ahead. Specifically, she steals a rich girl’s identity to enroll in a ballet class. The good news is that she doesn’t get away with it. But once it is discovered, the instructor allows the rich girl to enroll and Felicie to stay in the class, too. Perhaps such a grace-filled decision is warranted, given Felicie’s rough background. But parents should be prepared to discuss the ethical repercussions.
2. It’s mostly squeaky clean. There’s no sexuality (not even a kiss on the lips), no language (unless you count a “sucks”), and very little violence. There are two romantic angles – a pair of boys pursue Felicie – but it stays in kid-friendly territory. The most troubling aspect of the film involves the rich girl (named Camille) and her wicked mother, Régine. They constantly demean Felicie and even make her cry. (Camille: “You are nothing. Nothing.”) Camille calls her a “rat,” and later in the film, Régine tries to injure Felicie. I could have used a few less disparaging remarks.
3. It’s another “follow your dreams” movie. Felicie even is told: “You should always follow your heart and never give up.” That sounds great on the surface, but we need to ask: Does it withstand biblical scrutiny? Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us not to trust ourselves: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” And Jeremiah 17:9 describes the heart as “deceitful.” In other words, we are to follow God – and not our heart. We even are to give God our heart.
That said, God does give each of us unique talents, and He commands us not to waste them (Matthew 25:14-30). But He doesn’t promise us fame or fortune.
4. It has a few solid lessons. Like mentorship (from Felicie’s tutor, Odette). And hard work (by Felicie). And staying positive (Felicie). Felicie is very likeable. No doubt, many girls will walk out of the theater inspired.
5. It is enjoyable. I watched Leap! with my 9-year-old son, and I almost immediately regretted not bringing my 5-year-old daughter. It’s not the greatest animated movie of the year, but it does fit in that “cute and fun” category that is often lacking at the box office. Sure, it has a couple of messages that will require some critique/deprogramming, but overall, it’s worth the price of admission.
Family-friendly rating: 4 out of 5 stars.
Rated PG for some impolite humor and action.
— Michael Foust