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Felicie is a free-spirited young redhead who has one goal in life: to become a ballerina. She dances when she works. She dances when she plays. And when she sleeps? This tween girl is dreaming of dancing.

Felicie, though, lives in an orphanage that continually squashes her aspirations.

“Dreams are not reality,” a nun tells her.

It seems Felicie is destined to a life of fantasy – that is, until her best friend and fellow orphan Victor hatches a wild escape plan that involves running away in the dead of night and hopping on a train to Paris, the home of a world-famous dance school. Once there, she’ll enroll, impress everyone and become a world-famous ballerina! Well, that’s the plan.

They do escape, but the Paris they discover in 1880s France is one that shuns orphans and has little taste for children without homes. Perhaps that nun was right.

It’s all part of the animated movie Leap!, (PG), which opens in about 2,000 theaters this weekend and tells the story of a talented-but-poor girl who follows the dreams that her birth mom – a mom she never met – planted in her. It seems that Felicie’s mom left her daughter a miniature, ballerina-themed music box.

“Ever since I can remember, I’ve wanted to dance,” Felicie says.

It stars Elle Fanning (Maleficent, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) as Felicie; Dane DeHaan (The Amazing Spider-Man 2) as Victor; singer Carly Rae Jepsen as Felicie’s teacher, Odette; Maddie Ziegler as Felicie’s ballerina rival, Camille; and Mel Brooks as Luteau, the orphanage supervisor.

Leap! is an entertaining, mostly clean film that has plenty of fun moments but also a couple of ethical/worldview concerns.

Let’s examine the details.

Warning: minor spoilers!


Minimal. Luteau chases Felicie and Victor out of the orphanage; although he doesn’t intend physical harm, he ends up placing everyone’s lives in danger. Later in the movie, though, Camille’s wicked mother Régine does try to hurt Felicie in a page straight out of the Nancy Kerrigan-Tonya Harding saga. Also, we see a boy punch another boy.


None. Felicie has two suitors: Victor and a French dancer named Rudolph. The romance angle is a major part of the film, although Felicie never kisses either of them on the lips. (Victor does try to do so once.) She later kisses Victor on the cheek.

Felicie and Victor end up in a pub where she performs an Irish step dance on patron tables.

Coarse Language

None. (Although one character does say the word “sucks.”)

Other Positive Elements

Odette, a servant to Régine, initially shuns Felicie but soon sacrifices her time and energy to become her mentor. Later, another character who had ridiculed Felicie changes his mind and decides to help her. Also, Felicie’s positive outlook on life is contagious to those around her.

Other Negative Elements

The movie’s biggest ethical problem: Felicie steals Camille’s identity to get into dance school. She does get caught, but she is allowed to stay in the class due to her talent level and – perhaps — her background (She is an orphan. Who wouldn’t feel sorry for her?). Perhaps the instructor made the right decision, but it’s something parents should be ready to discuss.

Régine and Camille constantly belittle Felicie (Camille calls her a rat and tells her, “You’re nothing” – a reference to her social status).

Life Lessons

There are solid lessons on hard work (Felicie), forgiveness (several characters), kindness (Odette and Victor) and mentoring (Odette and Felicie). Régine and Camille give us lessons on how not to treat someone. Their dehumanizing of Felicie is painful to watch, and we immediately feel compassion for Felicie.


“You should always follow your heart and never give up,” a character tells Felicie in a pivotal moment. This theme is popular among Hollywood films. It’s also unbiblical.

Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us not to follow our own will: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” Jeremiah 17:9 describes the heart as “deceitful” (ESV) and “wicked” (KJV).

In other words, we’re in trouble if we follow our heart. We better make sure our desires align with God’s will.

That said, God does give each of us unique talents, and those talents often spark a natural desire to use them. Scripture tells us not to waste our talents (Matthew 25:14-30). But we’re also not guaranteed fame. Consider: God just might want a girl in your church to be a world-famous ballerina. But He also might want her to use her talents locally. Either way, He is glorified.

Follow your heart? No. Use your talents for God’s glory? Of course.


Leap! contains no language, no sexuality, and minimal violence. The ethical/worldview concerns can be corrected in a post-movie car discussion. It’s family-friendly.

Movie Partners

None that I could find.

What I Liked

Leap! is a beautiful film that displays the marvels of 1880s Paris. We see the Statue of Liberty and the Eiffel Tower being built (even though they were constructed a few years apart). We see the grand buildings and the marvelous museums. It’s easy to turn the film into a history lesson.

Meanwhile, I also enjoyed watching a young girl turn down a kiss. How often does that happen on the big screen?

What I Didn’t Like

The dehumanizing of Felicie. It was a bit too much.

Thumbs Up … Or Down?

Thumbs up.

Discussion Questions

  1. What does the Bible say about following your heart and your dreams?
  2. How are we to find the will of God for our lives?
  3. Was it OK for Felicie to lie? Should her punishment have been more severe?
  4. Have you ever seen someone make fun of another person? How did you react? How should you have reacted?

Entertainment rating: 3 out of 5 stars. Family-friendly rating: 4 out of 5 stars.