Ballerina (titled Leap! in the United States) is a 2016 3D computer-animated musical adventure comedy film co-directed by Éric Summer and Éric Warin and written by Summer, Carol Noble and Laurent Zeitoun. A co-production between Canadian and French companies, the film follows a poor orphan girl who dreams of becoming a ballerina and gets a chance to audition for the celebrated school of the Paris Opera Ballet.
Ballerina stars the voices of Elle Fanning, Dane DeHaan, Maddie Ziegler and Carly Rae Jepsen. The film was released in cinemas in France and the United Kingdom on 12 December 2016, followed by releases in various countries over the following several months, including Canada on 24 February 2017. The film was released in the United States on 25 August 2017, with the voices of Nat Wolff (who replaced DeHaan), Kate McKinnon and Mel Brooks added.
In the 1880s, eleven-year-old Félicie (Elle Fanning), a poor orphan girl who dreams of becoming a ballerina, but lacks formal training, runs away from her orphanage in rural Brittany with her best friend, Victor (Dane DeHaan), a young inventor. Together they go to Paris, but they soon become separated, and Victor becomes an office boy in Gustave Eiffel's workshop. Félicie finds her way to the Paris Opera, where the guard catches her trespassing. She is rescued by a mysterious cleaner with a limp, Odette (Carly Rae Jepsen), who agrees to let Félicie stay with her until she gets on her feet. Odette works for both the Opera and for the cruel and imperious Régine Le Haut (Julie Khaner), a wealthy restaurant owner. While helping Odette clean, Félicie spies Regine's daughter, Camille (Maddie Ziegler), practicing ballet. Camille sees Félicie, insults her, and throws Félicie's treasured music box out of the window, breaking it. As Félicie takes it to Victor for repair, she intercepts the postman who brings a letter from the Opera admitting Camille to the celebrated school of the Paris Opera Ballet partly because of her mother's connection. In her anger, Félicie hides the letter and decides to assume Camille's identity to get into the school and pursue her dream.
Odette agrees to mentor Félicie, who later learns that Odette was a former prima ballerina. Félicie finds her training very difficult, but with Camille's letter of acceptance, she manages to take her place at the ballet school. Mérante (Terrence Scammell), the school's exacting choreographer, announces that one of the girls from the class will be chosen to dance the role of Clara in The Nutcracker. He dismisses the worst dancer in class each day. Félicie improves each day and narrowly avoids elimination, but a couple of days before the final elimination, her lie is discovered. Mérante decides to admit Camille into the class, while also letting Félicie stay; although Félicie's infraction was serious, Mérante accidentally saw her dance passionately in a bar that she and Victor visited. The night before the final elimination, Félicie neglects training to go out on a date with Rudi, a handsome boy from the school, which disappoints Odette. Victor sees Félicie with Rudi and becomes jealous; he and Félicie argue. The next day, Félicie is late to the audition and unable to perform well, and so the part of Clara goes to Camille.
Regine sends Félicie back to her orphanage, where she loses her spirit. She has a dream about being an infant in the arms of her late mother, a ballerina, who gave her the music box. She decides to return to Paris to help Odette and apologize to Victor. While cleaning the stage, Félicie encounters Camille, and they engage in a dance battle that is witnessed by all the students, Odette and Mérante. Félicie does a grand jeté over a flight of stairs, while Camille cannot. Mérante approaches the two girls and asks them why they dance, to which Camille admits that she dances only because her mother tells her to, while Félicie speaks stirringly of dance as her inheritance and passion. Camille admits that Félicie should dance Clara. Near Eiffel's workshop, where the Statue of Liberty is being constructed, Félicie invites Victor to the performance. A furiously deranged Régine arrives, chases Félicie up to the crown of the statue and forces her off, but Victor saves her with aid from Camille. They arrive at the Opera just in time for Félicie to don Odette's special pointe shoes; Félicie kisses Victor on the cheek, and she performs in The Nutcracker alongside the principal ballerina.
The film was produced at L'Atelier Animation in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The filmmakers used key frame animation of Aurélie Dupont and Jérémie Bélingard, two étoiles (star dancers) of the Paris Opera Ballet, to translate realistic dance choreography to the animated film. Dupont became the de facto choreographer of the film's dance sequences.
On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the original version of the film holds an approval rating of 75% based on 32 reviews, with an average rating of 5.74/10. On French entertainment information website AlloCiné, the film has an average grade of 3.5/5, based on 17 critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, the US version of the film, entitled Leap!, has an approval rating of 42% based on 62 reviews, with an average rating of 4.86/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "From its bland story to its unremarkable animation, Leap! does little to distinguish itself from a long list of like-minded – and superior – family-friendly alternatives." On Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating to reviews, the film has a weighted average score 48 out of 100, based on 18 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A" on an A+ to F scale.
Melissa Stewart of Insights magazine of Australia called the film "a heart-warming adventure. ... With the animation capturing the elegance of ballet, it is hard not to be mesmerised by the pirouettes and grand jetés. ... [Félicie's] journey will resonate with for anyone who has experienced the sting of failure and trying to figure out how to bounce back. All of this occurs while humour is trickled throughout the movie making it enjoyable for kids and parents alike. ... [T]he themes of fighting for your passion and dreams is timeless." Mike McCahill of The Guardian wrote: "It's attentively, attractively designed – with a real eye for the light hitting the buildings of a city under construction – but a shade more Black Swan in its DNA might have made the happy ending less inevitable and its pep less repetitive." Matt Zoller Seitz of RogerEbert.com gave the film one and a half out of four stars, criticizing its numerous "3-D animation clichés" which he said spoil the potential of its original premise, stating that "The best thing about [Leap!] is its portrayal of the dance world, then and now, as both exhilarating and cruel. ... But [the film] doesn’t seem to grasp how special these elements are ... it keeps wasting [Félicie's] time (and ours) with theoretically comic or suspenseful subplots that we’ve seen done many times before, with considerably more wit and feeling
- Let me tell you why I’m like this. If you don’t know what I mean, that’s fine — you don’t know me, and I don’t expect you ever will. But I know me