New animated film ‘Leo’ is a family-friendly heartwarming story

Happy Madison Productions recently released a new family-oriented film, “Leo,” the company’s second animated movie ever following “Eight Crazy Nights” from 2003. The plot follows a class pet, a tuatara named Leonardo (Adam Sandler), who discovers he may only have a year left to live. Through this revelation, he decides he needs to make his final year worthy and does so by giving advice to the current batch of fifth graders he is sent home with over the weekend. 

This film is absolutely heartwarming, and the comedy lands perfectly, even for the older crowd. While this movie is marketed toward the entire family, Sandler and the rest of the production team also found a way to sneak in some parent-friendly jokes. My favorite was when the children sang about growing up, and one girl belted about how she will be able to “drink orange juice with the bubbles.” 

The issues covered throughout the plot are realistic, with each kid following a certain archetype. Memorable characters included the kid who spoke too much and needed to learn about listening to others, the popular girl with an entitled family, the little scientist going through her parents’ divorce and the bully who feels academically behind.

My favorite, who I felt awful for, was Eli, a boy dealing with a helicopter mom who resorts to putting him in a hazmat suit during playdates and employs a drone to follow him to school. Leo teaches him how to write a breakup letter to let the drone down easily, starting with the typical line, “It isn’t you, it’s me.” 

Another fantastic aspect of the movie is the art, not just visually but musically. The character designs were dynamic, and I loved the experimentation with certain parts of the movie. During some songs, the screen would have an effect that made it look like it was on a canvas with some wash work. My favorite aspect of the design was how the kindergarteners looked like piranhas. It made their chaos even more accurate. 

As for the music, the lyrics were funny and every important character seemed to get a spotlight. However, I felt the music didn’t range as much as the visuals did, making each song a little redundant. 

The only one that really stuck out was Leo’s song to Mia, a girl dealing with the loneliness of her parents’ divorce and the loss of a grandfather who would always listen to her. When she starts crying, he tells her not to because strong people don’t cry. While this message immediately comes off as harmful, the narrative does not justify it. From the start, the movie makes it clear that Leo dislikes crying children. Plus, Mia immediately schools him on the scientifically-proven catharsis that comes with crying.

This movie deserves all of the praise it is receiving. Not only was this a movie meant for families, but it involved family right in the casting. Sandler’s daughters Sadie and Sunny played two kids, and his wife Jackie played one of the moms. 

If you love animals and need some uplifting content in your life, this is definitely the movie for you.


5/5 Stars


Featured photo courtesy of @leomovienetflix, Instagram