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Thread: LEAP! (2017) directed by Eric Summer

  1. #1
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    LEAP! (2017) directed by Eric Summer

    This is an entertaining young child's animated movie about an vibrant orphan girl who seeks to become a great ballerina.

    Some people have criticized this movie because of the stealing scene. For those sensitive enough to have moral qualms about this criminal act and this movie, might just as well also condemn the Best Oscar Motion Picture Les Miserables (2012) for stealing wood in that movie. Subsequently, this criminal act has its consequences. Really for an animated children’s movie the morality of the criminal is not as clear cut as it might seem as well. As for those critics whose insistence on historical accuracy and the relatively quick learning curve to become an amazing dancer are missing the nature of this fun, entertaining, in some ways simplistic presentation of an animated feature for young girls who still have dreams and a few boys who want to be inventors ala the prat fallen and accident-prone acclaimed comedian, Jerry Lewis, who died recently at 91 years old. And finally, dancing in a pub as a young girl can’t be looked down on if one realizes this is a European setting where society isn’t so prudish and the association of pubs (where family often gather) and bars is often confused.

    The use of animation in this movie was aptly chosen and is fined tuned to the spirited nature of the storyline, particularly the dancing moves which would have been quite unrealistic and poorly received if the movie had been live action instead. The animated dancing offers up a childlike fantasy experience of exciting idealistic movement and the fulfillment of the delicious pleasure of passionate dreams. There is an excellent but difficult and rarely achieved balance between animated realism and the girlish imagination of what could and is possible as seen through a child’s eyes such like Bolt (2008) about a performance dog who believes his acting is part of his real persona. The landscapes, the buildings, cityscapes are often presented with vibrant authenticity yet with a sense of wondrous imperfection as animation as yet hasn’t been able to completely replicate dense photographic images of the real world.

    In some ways, Leap! could be consider the young child’s version of La La Land (2016) or Chicago (2002) in its depiction of the entertainment world, its exotic sights and sounds, the captivating energy and the enthralling emotional turmoil and the pulsating excitement of art. This great movie is about not giving up passion and pursuing one’s dreams, who better message can an animated feature offer children?

  2. #2
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    BANDE-ANNONCE (TRAILER) IN FRENCH

    It's a French animation from Gaumont, the big old French film studio, original title Ballerina, and I saw the French trailer for it multiple times in Paris last fall. (See the link above.) It looked really cute. I'd like to see it with the original French soundtrack which would be cuter and good practice for my French. It got very good reviews in France when it came out last December - AlloCiné press rating 3.5. Though it got good reviews from Variety, Hollywood Reporter, USA Today, and Roeper, for some reason the Rottentomatoes and MEtacritic ratings are terrible. Audience response seems to be positive - 4.1 on AlloCiné, 67% on Rottentomatoes, no real rating yet on Metacritic.

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    Correction: the critics rating on AlloCiné the French movie website is 3.5, the viewers raring is 4.1. Still very good. The Metacritic rating now is up and it's terrible, 48%. But Richard Roeper's review is a 75. Often the US reviews say it's formulaic, but well designed to please its "target audience" of "tweens." A lot of the French reviews call is "a charming little animated film." Maybe the dubbed English version loses some of the charm? I'm expecting to see it today.

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    Escaping from the exceptional heat for the Bay Area I saw two movies at the air conditioned AMC Bay Street in Emeryville: first Tulip Fever, then Leap!.



    TULIP FEVER was directed by Justin Chadwick. Who is he? Well,Chadwick directed The Other Boleyn Girl, which tanked, and Nelson Mandela, the Long Walk to Freedom, which got some attention, naturally, but was described as dull and a lesson on how not to make a historical biopic. This screenplay for his new project, a costume drama set in Amsterdam, is co-written by Deborah Moggach. She wrote the novel of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, so she can do crowd pleasers. But this one was co-scripted by Tom Stoppard - who is brilliant, but has never met a plot he hasn't been able to make incomprehensible. This one about a 17th century Dutch merchant and his marital woes isn't so much incomprehensible as unrelatable, and, of course, with Stoppard involved, overcomplicated. The action is jittery, jumping back and forth from one plot strand to another without allowing you to relate to any of them. Alicia Vikander, whose poor diction or speech defect I've commented on before, is routinely pretty but remote. Her best role was as a cyborg. She has not lived up to the hype. So she doesn't seem to like hubby Christoph Waltz, who is best as a villain (as in Tarantino) and wasted as this frustrated guilty burgher who can't manage to get his wife pregnant.

    Along comes Dane DeHaan, a talented and sexy young artist hired to do the couple's portrait, who falls in love with Alicia, and she with him - but given Alicia's chilly demeanor, it doesn't click, at least not for us, anyway. The fishmonger and the maid generate more heat but that's a subplot. Eventually the maid and Alicia work out a scam so the maid can hide her pregnancy - oh well, never mind. That scam is preposterous.

    On the plus side, the costumes and settings of 17th century Amsterdam are beautiful and convincing and evoke Vermeer. Even Vikander and DeHaan making love look like a gorgeous painting. There is a lot about the tulip craze and how that led to speculation and a kind of stock market craze, and this is woven into the plot with both the fishmonger and the artist involved. But the plot is not believable. This is a waste of a lot of interesting actors, who include Tom Hollander, Jack O'Connell, Zach Galifianakis, even Judi Dench as an abbess who raises prized tulips.

    LEAP!/BALLERINA [original title], directed by Éric Summer, is a delight, though it does not rock conventions as does, for example Ratatouille, or the even more radical recent French animation Ma vie de courgette/My Life As a Courgette/Zucchini (Claude Barras 2016), which I reviewed in Paris last fall.

    This is about boy and girl "best friend" orphans who run away from a big orphanage in Brittany to 19th century Pris when the Eiffel Tower has just begun being constructed. This is primarily about the dream of becoming a ballet dancer. The idea of a boy being a dancer is under-emphasized, though arguably a topic more in need of promotion, especially in the US, where it's looked on as sissy or gay for a male to become a ballet dancer. The boy who runs away, Victor, wants to be an inventor. He comes and goes in the story, which is a good idea, perhaps essential, because the focus is on Félicie (voiced for US auds by Elle Fanning) and her dancing dreams. There is a boy dancer, Rudolph, a blond (it's hinted I think a bottle blond) Russian peacock, who turns out to be nicer than he first appears: he's on Félicie's side against the wicked stage mom who wants to kill her so her daughter can win the audition.

    Victor is adorable, if awfully jumpy - but that's the idea: he's packed with energy and ambition, as is Félicie. I am astonished to find out that Victor is voiced for the American version by none other than - Dane DeHaan! I am a fan of this very talented young actor (Chronicle, The Place Beyond the Pines and Kill Your Darlings are three of his better films). That's why I wanted to see Tulip Fever and why I went to see Valerian This may be his only current success with an American audience since Valerian and Tulip Fever have both tanked with critics. This is unfair in the case of Valerian, which has done better in France, where it comes from: it was directed by Luc Besson and is a rot of masterful CGI. On the other hand, Tulip Fever, also capable of entertaining, clearly is just unengaging from first to last. But Leap!, within the limits it sets, is a big, big success.

    The small theater was pretty packed with parents and their accompanying kids, tweens or younger, and the latter were an unusually well-behaved group, junior balletomanes no doubt.

    I look forward eventually to seeing this film with its original French soundtrack. The American version works, but really, the translations, and the American intonations used to convey them, change things a lot to make them appeal to an American, instead of French, audience. The way the nuances of the relations between Félicie and Victor are conveyed in French is something I'd liked to have seen in the original version. Note that while in France Leap!'s, i.e. Ballerina's, AlloCiné critic rating is an excellent 3.5, and with the public online one is a rave 4.0, rather inexplicably this film, which is obviously connecting with young American audiences and has plenty of charm for sympathetic adults, has a horrible MetaCritic rating of 48%. This disparity is unjustified.

    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 09-03-2017 at 08:54 AM.

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