The Weinstein Company (TWC) will launch its oft-delayedLeap! 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).
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.