Leo, with Adam Sandler: the old lizard who whispered in the kids' ears (review)

Leo, with Adam Sandler: the old lizard who whispered in the kids’ ears (review)

For Netflix, the actor plays an elderly educational animal, who acts as a psychologist-teacher for children in need of life lessons.

Since its deal with Netflix around The Ridiculous 6in 2016, Adam Sandler is capable of the worst (this western was particularly heavy) as well as the best in them (The Meyerowitz Stories by Noah Baumbach, Uncut Gemsby the Safdie brothers, both acclaimed for their accuracy). Leowhich he co-wrote, and of which he voices the main character, is a good “middle film”, constantly with his ass between two chairs. Or rather between the two spectrums of the actor: his taste for schoolboy humor and his desire to tell relevant things about today’s world.

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By imagining the story of this end-of-life lizard having grown up in a classroom (precisely fifth grade) with Robert Smigel, his writing partner from SNL, via his production studio Happy Madison (already behind the strange Eight Crazy Nights), Sandler offers himself an undeniably original role. And has at least as much fun overtaking him as his dad Dracula fromHotel Transylvania.

In 74 years of observation, the little animal has acquired enough experience to provide good advice when its habits are disrupted and it is adopted by the students in turn, for one night. Having learned to speak from attending classes, he proves capable of helping them… with music. A succession of life lessons will then follow one another, somewhat reminiscent of the cruel fates reserved for children in Charlie and the chocolate factory.

His concept gave hope for a sharp criticism of current education and Leo sometimes achieves this by showing, for example, one of the children overprotected by his parents to the point of being constantly monitored by a depressive drone (hello Marvin from H2G2, unforgettable model of AI too intelligent to be happy!). There is also a little girl as addicted to smartphones as her parents or little Summer, a talker who will discover that by remaining silent and listening to others, she will gain popularity. Adam Sandler also transformed this animated film into a family story by asking his own daughters to voice the two most memorable girls in the class.

It’s a shame that these few good ideas are drowned between two greasy jokes (his vivarium friend, a jaded old turtle with the voice of Bill Burr, multiplies the butt jokes) or that the songs, clearly inspired by the compositions of Stephen Sondheim and Jonathan Larson (famous for Rentwhose journey is brilliantly told in Tick, tick… Boom, on the same platform) are never memorable, too rushed to really make an impact. This is also the subject of self-criticism when one of the musical pieces is cut off in the middle because no one cares. The creators of the film are aware of the limits of the exercise, and are capable of playing with them, but the fact is that at the end of the film, we will have forgotten all the songs. At least, unlike “Let It Go”they will not be repeated over and over and at the top of their lungs by the little spectators, that’s something!

In terms of form, Léo’s designs are generally successful, and the changes in animation style are always justified. Failing to be innovative. Already, on Netflix, The Mitchells vs. the Machines had amazed the public on this ground. Arriving afterwards with a less polished result – especially in crowd scenes and fast moving scenes, the effects sometimes seem cluttered – it struggles to impress.

But it is above all on the merits that Leo is a frustrating film, as we see what it could have been with more thought. Why spread your story over nearly 2 hours? Multiply the characters and the twists and turns or risk falling into clichés? Continue to string together dialogues at full speed even though this fault had been denounced via the lesson learned by little Summer? Citing references all the time to the point of repeating oneself – we suppose that the connection with Toy Story Or AND is fully assumed, given that we hear about it on several occasions-? Despite its promising concept, Leo quickly becomes exhausting.

Not to mention that we never really know who it is aimed at: children, making fun of their parents who are incapable of raising them without passing on their neuroses to them? To the elders, who will understand the messages well “hidden” but will not be entertained by this avalanche of jokes that are by turns too adult or childish? We would have liked to be fully won over by this film which aims to deliver lovely messages (don’t be afraid to grow up, to explore the world beyond your terrarium, to put words to your troubles…), but which ends up being so stupefying that we come out in the same state as preschool toddlers, depicted as veritable overexcited piranhas, incapable of concentrating on anything. Paradoxically, this valve, the most efficient of Leo, perfectly illustrates its main flaws.

Adam Sandler stopped reading reviews in 1995!

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