In Netflix’s latest animated venture, “Leo,” Adam Sandler lends his voice to the curmudgeonly yet chaotic lizard named Leo. Co-directed by Sandler’s previous collaborator Robert Smigel, the film takes a unique approach to storytelling, mixing zany humour with moments of genuine emotion. The result is a movie that doesn’t neatly fit into the categories of a children’s film or a straightforward adult comedy, creating a delightful limbo of its own.
Set in a fifth-grade classroom where Leo has resided since 1949, the lizard and his friend Squirtle, voiced by Bill Burr, witness generations of 10-year-olds come and go. Leo’s disinterested perspective on the children’s lives takes an unexpected turn when he learns he has only one year left to live, injecting a dose of sappy sentimentality reminiscent of “The Fault in Our Stars.”
Leo’s journey unfolds as he spends weekends with each child, discovering their insecurities and fears. The film masterfully avoids burdening the kids with issues disproportionate to their age, showcasing relatable concerns such as voice shame and fears of loneliness. Leo’s unconventional therapeutic approach involves solving problems with silly songs, turning him into the fifth-grade’s most sought-after counsellor.
While Leo’s influence grows, it becomes a cause for concern among the adults, with the substitute teacher, Ms. Malkin (voiced by Cecily Strong), assuming the role of the villain. The narrative, apart from Leo’s impending death, lacks significant conflict until the third act, where the movie takes a moderately dark turn, venturing into the literal wilderness.
Despite the animation’s serviceable nature, lacking the visual acrobatics of some animated counterparts, Sandler injects the film with bursts of anarchy, elevating it from the mundane corners of animated streaming movies. The intentional tone dissonance, oscillating between crude humour and Pixar-esque moments, adds a layer of unpredictability to the viewing experience.
In conclusion, “Leo” is a delightful animated film that navigates the complexities of life, love, and childhood with a mix of humour and heart. While not without its oddities, the movie offers a unique blend of laughter and emotion, making it a worthwhile watch.
- – Directors: Robert Marianetti, Robert Smigel, David Wachtenheim
- – Cast: Adam Sandler, Bill Burr, Cecily Strong, Sadie Sandler, Sunny Sandler, Jason Alexander
- – Rating: 3.5/5