Leo, an animated family film from Adam Sandler’s production company Happy Madison, hits Netflix at an ideal time: the holiday season is approaching, family time is becoming more frequent, and the weather is becoming chillier and chillier.  What better time to cozy up with a crowd-pleaser?

With the movie’s musical sequences resembling a cleaner Eight Crazy Nights along with Adam Sandler voicing the titular lizard the same way he voiced a monkey in Zookeeper, Leo may have the average movie goer on edge.  But thanks to directors Robert Marianetti, Robert Smigel and David Wachtenheim (alumni from Saturday Night Live’s TV Funhouse division) and screenwriters Paul Sado, Sandler and Smigel, the clever writing paired with the visual gags and bright animation disarms any doubt.  Leo is a fabulous flick for anyone looking for a good story and plenty of laughs.

Leo tells a likeable story about an elderly lizard, Leo, who dreams of escaping the school where he’s the class pet alongside a turtle named Squirtle (comedian Bill Burr of Old Dads, cleaning up his usual act).  The ambitious lizard fancies his ticket “out” will be when kids take him home to care for him over weekends.  But with every weekend getaway (and by accidentally speaking to the first student who takes him home), Leo starts forming individual bonds with the youngins, and even inspires them to improve on their own insecurities.

Leo has a relationship with every student in the class and, to an extent, the audience sees every interaction.  While this is sweet to watch, this formula traps the narrative in a vicious circle. When the movie mixes up the flow by having Leo learn something from the kids (like how it’s actually okay to cry) or when Squirtle gets jealous of his scaly friend, it’s enough of an interesting boost to spark our interest again.

With Leo and August’s cute pre-teen flick You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah, Adam Sandler continues a run of vehicles that features the funnyman getting in touch with a softer side of comedy.  He hasn’t sold out his brand of charisma that has made him a household name, but his humour and perspective has become kinder.  It’s a leaf that Sandler has turned since signing on with Netflix, and it’s a transition that has made his sentimentality more genuine.  The comedian has come a long way from the “family man” phoniness as seen in Just Go With It, Blended, and the Grown Ups franchise.


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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie

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