Review: Leo is a reptilian romp that surprises with its unexpected humor and heart, carried by Adam Sandler, Bill Burr, and a fun voice acting cast. While it may not be a genre-defining masterpiece, Leo succeeds in delivering a singular story and surpasses many animated movie releases in 2023.
The collaboration between Adam Sandler’s Happy Madison Productions and Netflix continues its journey with Leo, a 3D animated venture that marks a departure from the traditional Happy Madison style. Directed by a trio of filmmakers – Robert Smigel, Robert Marianetti, and David Wachtenheim – and headlined by the voices of Sandler and Bill Burr, Leo injects a story of a lizard’s existential crisis with bizarre humor and heart.
Happy Madison’s foray into 3D animation reveals a visual style that, while not groundbreaking, serves the film well. The animation is competent and functional, allowing the narrative, humor, and performances to take center stage. It’s a shift from their only animated endeavor as a studio, Eight Crazy Nights from 2002, and showcases the studio’s evolution in the animation landscape and interest in exploring new territory.
The story revolves around the titular main character Leo, a jaded 74-year-old lizard voiced by Adam Sandler, who believes he has only a year left to live after wrongly overhearing the average life expectancy for a lizard. Alongside his terrarium-mate Squirtle, voiced by Bill Burr, Leo plans to escape the confines of the classroom. However, a twist of fate entangles him in the problems of his anxious students, exacerbated by the tyrannical substitute teacher Mrs. Malkin, voiced by Cecily Strong.
The narrative, while seemingly geared towards a younger audience, introduces themes of self-examination and existential crisis through Leo’s misguided belief in his *supposed* impending demise. The execution is both cooky and sincere, striking a balance that makes the film accessible to both children and adults. It’s a win for the script writing talents of Sandler and co-writer Paul Sado, who craft a story that delves into deeper themes without sacrificing the film’s watchability for a younger audience.
The humor in Leo stands out as a defining feature, blending two distinct comedic tones that cater to both children and adults. The jokes, often strange and bizarre, contribute to the film’s uniqueness. Some gags may sail over the heads of younger viewers, while others introduce a layer of irreverence that is surprisingly refreshing for an animated movie. The quips don’t conform to the usual boundaries of animated storytelling, injecting Leo and Squirtle with wisecracking humor that adds unexpected charm and intrigue.
Reviews for Movies like Leo (2023)
The voice acting, spearheaded by the duo of Sandler and comedy legend Bill Burr, steals the show. The chemistry between the two actors perfectly captures the essence of two cranky, old reptilian buddies navigating the challenges of an elementary classroom. Sandler’s family – his two daughters Sadie and Sunny, and his wife Jackie – make smaller contributions to the voice cast, adding a familial touch to the film and echoing a trend seen in Sandler’s previous projects (amplified by the delightful You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah earlier this year).
While Leo may not be a groundbreaking addition to the animation genre, it confidently establishes itself as mindless fun. The film’s strange and delightful humor, combined with heartfelt performances, propels it beyond the standard animated fare of 2023. It may not revolutionize the perception of animation style or genre, but its fun factor compensates for any perceived shortcomings.
In the midst of Leo’s escapades, it’s possible that Happy Madison and Netflix Studios may have found a winning formula for unassuming animated entertainment. Leo continues the streak of enjoyable releases (You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah and 2022’s Hustle) under this collaboration, proving that the combination of Sandler’s comedic sensibilities and Netflix’s streaming platform can yield results worth checking out.
Leo is a reptilian romp that surprises with its unexpected humor and heart. While it may not be a genre-defining masterpiece, it succeeds in delivering a singular story and surpasses many animated movie releases in 2023. If you’re a subscriber to Netflix, Leo is worth a shot.
Stream Leo on Netflix
Film Cast and Credits
Adam Sandler as Leo
Bill Burr as Squirtle
Cecily Strong as Mrs. Malkin
Sadie Sandler as Jayda
Sunny Sandler as Summer
Jackie Sandler as Jayda’s Mom
Jason Alexander as Jayda’s Dad