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Feature FilmIdeas/Commentary

‘Leap!’ And ‘Ballerina’ Are The Same Film, But Their Reviews Tell A Different Story

The Weinstein Company (TWC) will launch its oft-delayed Leap! in 2,575 U.S. theaters tomorrow. The film has been poorly reviewed and is expected to perform mildly at the box office.

That’s not the whole story though. As we’ve pointed out before, Leap! is actually a France/Canada co-production that debuted as Ballerina last winter. The $30 million film, directed by Eric Summer and Eric Warin, performed well, grossing $13+ million in France and over $50 million worldwide.

Now here’s what’s intriguing: Ballerina was a generally well reviewed film, earning 73% positive reviews on the film review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes. Weinstein’s Americanized version, Leap!, has completely flipped the reaction amongst reviewers, with 71% negative reviews (as of this writing).

'Leap!' and 'Ballerina' reviews.

How could the same film elicit such wildly different opinions. There’s a number of possibilities. It’s known that TWC co-chairman Harvey Weinstein reworked the film and recast its voices. Perhaps the Weinstein cut departed heavily from the original, turning it into a different film? (An English-language version of the film already existed and had been released in English-speaking territories outside of the U.S., but Weinstein added new voices to his version, including Nat Wolff, Kate McKinnon, and Mel Brooks.)

Or maybe the different version are actually similar, but the concept held more appeal for international critics (who reviewed Ballerina) than American critics (who reviewed Leap!).

Weinstein, it should be noted, has a track record for “Americanizing” foreign animated films to the point of altering the filmmaker’s intent. A similar situation to the current Leap!/Ballerina conundrum occurred in the mid-2000s when Weinstein picked up the decently-reviewed British/French animated film The Magic Roundabout and transformed it into the reviled Doogal, complete with a rewritten script by Fairly Oddparents creator Butch Hartman.

It’s not clear at this point whether Weinstein had Ballerina’s script rewritten as extensively as the one for The Magic Roundabout, or whether there were other factors at play that resulted in poor critical reaction to Leap!

In any case, Weinstein doesn’t plan to change his ways anytime soon. He is currently reworking the 2016 Chinese feature Little Door Gods and plans to release it in the United States as The Guardian Brothers.

If any readers have already seen both Ballerina and Leap!, please feel free to share theories about the broadly different reactions to the two versions of this film.

  • I saw it on Netflix like 2 months ago (in Spanish) and I don’t know if I watched Ballerina or Leap.

  • Carlos Ortega E.

    Saw Ballerina about a month ago in Spanish -latin american dubbing- (it opened in Mexico last year I think) and in my experience it had to do a lot with the english dubbing. The movie was plain “good” for me, it has some charming moments & characters and good animation. I tried to watch the english version later but it felt surprisingly slow, almost unwatchable, and no, it has nothing to do with spanish being my first language, there are lots of animated films and series that I watch and prefer in english. I haven’t seen the french version but most of the spanish dubbing has some decent enough voices to like most of the characters, unlike the english version, which has a voice cast with actors chosen because of their names and not because of their voice acting (they are not bad film actors, but they are clearly not professional voice actors) but anyway, it happens a lot in most animated movies. :/ and again, that was my personal experience, give it a chance, hope to read more opinions on the matter.

    • AmidAmidi

      Which English version did you see? There are two English-language versions: one that the film’s producers made, which was distributed in English-speaking territories as “Ballerina,” and the new Weinstein English-language version, which adds some new voices and possibly makes other changes too.

  • Marc Hendry

    Was it Ballerina out in the USA before, on a smaller release?

  • Max C.

    I went to a exactly-one-month-early festival showing of this movie as Ballerina and I didn’t see a Tomatomer above even 60% coming at all from any English-speaking country, not even with its gorgeous, nostalgic Parisian setpieces.

    The ad-libbing especially was as annoying as the Weinsteins would want it to be. It’s a movie with ambition, but I felt it’s most of all manufactured to be as appealing to Harvey Weinstein as possible except for the voice actors Harvey wasn’t too keen on, so I’m pretty sure the dialogue hasn’t been altered much. Either way, so much for delaying something you cherish close enough to Oscar season.

  • Evelyn Lamb

    I think you might be reading more into this than is there. Looking at both Rotten Tomatoes pages, the reviews are pretty similar, a lot of middle of the road reviews. Lots of 3/5’s C’s, etc. It’s my understanding that in that case the reviewer has to choose one or the other. Perhaps American reviewers tend to be a little more cynical and opt for a rotten if they’re on the fence. But the response seems very similar to me overall. For comparison, it looks like Metacritic combines the two but almost all of the reviews are “mixed” and it’s sitting at exactly 50 right now.
    I saw the Americanized version with Elle Fanning and I agree with the lukewarm reviews. The animation, especially the settings, was beautiful and it was pleasant enough. But also a bit bland, a little thin for its runtime, and I almost immediately forgot it existed until reading this article.

  • Ryan Cullen

    There is one example that glaringly feels like an addition made to the US film…

    At one point, a character actually says, ‘It’s Hammer Time”. Yes, an M.C. Hammer reference in a movie set in 19th Century France.

    I have not seen the original English dub, so I can’t say for certain, but this seems like it was added in.

  • JonathanisPrimus

    I found it astonishing that TWC took so long to release this. The movie came out on DVD and Blu-Ray in Canada last month. Under its real name and original version, of course. The theatrical release was back in February or March.

    I think part of the panning might come from the dubbed versions. The Ballerina reviews will include the French press, who seem to have gotten the best version. Even the non-Weinsteined original English dub has problems matching the flaps

  • I agree that the difference was probably a little of both. International critics
    were probably more forgiving of the film while the American version was
    made to be more “hip” to younger audiences. The difference wasn’t huge
    though. If you notice, the rating for both films is kinda similar (5.7 and 4.8).

  • Hayley

    I’ve seem both. I liked the original Ballerina better. But leap added so much extra voicing and stuff and I’m not sure if it’s because I saw the original first but it ruined it for me. I didn’t like “Leap!” But I adored “Ballerina”

    • Inkan1969

      When you say “extra voicing” do you mean that they gave lines to characters who were mute in the original movie, or that they actually made the studio make new animated scenes for new characters?

  • Johnny Marques

    Although there are numerous incredibly talented voice actors working today, personally I find it breaks my immersion to watch dubbed versions of movies. And don’t get me wrong, a lot of those dubbed versions are quite good. But if I’m watching a movie called A Monster in Paris, I’d rather hear the french voices, its idionsincrasies are a big part of the reason I’m drawn to it. But I understand why dubbed movies exist. If the studio really tampered with Ballerina the way it looks, this is simply a butcher’s job, dismantling someone creation’s for gain. With all due differences, it’s Malcolm Macdowell starring an historical epic called Caligula and behind his back producers splicing footage of pornography into the movie to turn a profit. Didn’t Studio Ghibli have to stand their ground against american dubbings which planned to insert recent pop-culture jokes in there? I remember some kind of issue like that.

  • Shanley

    The percentage may look incredibly different, but look at the average score: 5.7 and 4.8. There may be no bigger reason for discrepancy other than the fact that there is a new set of reviewers.

    5.7, btw, is an incredibly low positive score. It means critics are shrugging their shoulders and saying, “C-.” Whereas the American version is getting 4.9, a “D” The difference in opinion is not that extreme.

    This does not point to wildly different opinions, especially with such small review counts. RT% doesn’t stabilize until ~80 reviews. These movies both have less than half that.

  • yvette kaplan

    As one who has been intimately involved in a similar US release of a European production, the signs of a ‘rework’ for supposed American contemporary tastes was unmistakable to me. While the lip synched dialogue may have been close to the original, the main culprit is the near incessant ADR’ed voice overs, dialogue added in wide shots and action scenes; always jokes and verbal gags, often those pop culture references, in places where it’s likely musical score was the only soundtrack. Sometimes it works, in the best cases, adds energy and character to otherwise slow or dull places. But usually it’s just headache causing. I was very disappointed with Leap, and wouldn’t mind seeing the original, undubbed, Ballerina.

  • Mister Twister

    Animu fans know what americanizing can do to a good script.

  • Jackie Brackett

    We took our kids to see Leap! today because although we’ve seen Ballerina we wanted the kids to get the theatre experience for it since we love it so much.
    We left disappointed and frankly confused. There was such a large difference between the two, they took one of our favorite movies and bastardized it trying to “Americanize” it.

    I think only 1 or 2 of Camilles Mother’s lines were the same and the rest were utterly ridiculous (as someone else pointed out “Stop, it’s Hammer Time” was one of said lines)

    Some were thrown in for comedic value but the original lines were actually more funny.

    One of Felicy’s lines in Ballerina is let’s dance as opposed to in Leap! She says let’s party which made my husband and I both cringe and laugh.

    And in the beginning they refer to it as “the ballet school” instead of the opera, not sure why that was necessary.

    Long story short save your theatre money and buy a region free version of Ballerina

    • NMTX

      THIS! After watching Ballerina (in English) multiple times while on vacation in Mexico, we saw Leap in theaters because we thought it would be fun to see it on the big screen. It was horrible and so disappointing how many changes were made, and none for the better. Everything was spelled out, apparently Americans can’t infer anything, and the voice overs were cringe worthy. I especially missed the original voice of Victor. So many of the changes seemed pointless and the added jokes, like “Did anyone check her ID?” in the bar scene, were just dumb.

    • Carl Hauser

      Really? I thought some of the changes were positive none more striking than the last line of Ballerina (Lets set Paris on fire vs Leap which ties it all together with “Let’s show them why we dance” Also Mel Brooks and Felicia’s mothers lines added depth to the characters rather than overly spelling things out. Overall the changes were minimal and didn’t radically alter the film.

  • Carl Hauser

    The two movies are almost identical. I watched the English version of Ballerina and then Leap. Leap had 3 or 4 line changes and gave some lines Felicia mother all of which I liked. Mel brooks had 3 lines and they added some depth to a character they breezed over in the original and his voice seemed to fit the him better. European audiences won’t pan a European production while Americans have no such loyalties. Americans are also spoiled by animation masterpieces from Pixar while Leap/Ballerina boarders on the uncanny threshold. It ripped of multiple 80s movies including their ridiculous plot holes and for those reasons it got low revies. However the target audience of 3-10 year old girls never saw Karate Kid or Rocky 4 (the training scene is so close to Rocky vs Drago is has to be a wink to the parents) so it’s all new to them.