“Maybe if people talked less, animals would talk more,” observes one of the human characters in “Charlotte’s Web,” a children’s classic that serves as the butt of several jokes and as inspiration for Adam SandlerIt’s lively”Lion”, an endearing Netflix original that strikes the perfect balance between heartfelt and fart jokes.
Basing the way Leo sounds on his creaky, slightly guttural impression of the late Hollywood agent Bernie Brillstein, Sandler voices a crusty old iguana who has spent three-quarters of a century (practically his entire life) trapped in a classroom. primary school. Leo’s wisdom is largely limited to what he is taught in fifth grade, although he has observed enough children over his 74 years that the lizard believes he is qualified to mentor this generation. In fact, he is cheaper and more helpful than the typical child psychologist.
Sandler is an old pro when it comes to animation, having lent his voice to the main characters in “Eight Crazy Nights” and the “Hotel Transylvania” cartoons. With “Leo,” she treats the project as a family affair, recruiting her two daughters, Sadie and Sunny, to play the students in Ms. Malkin’s fifth-grade class (the pair also appeared in “You Are Not Invited To” from Netflix, produced by Sandler). My Bat Mitzvah” earlier this year). That’s the same strategy Judd Apatow and Robert Rodriguez have adopted recently, collaborating with their children on films that inevitably end up feeling sweeter and more sincere than their work aimed at adults.
“Leo” also reunites Sandler with “Saturday Night Live” veterans Robert Smigel, Robert Marianetti and David Wachtenheim. The three worked on the show’s weekly “TV Funhouse” segments (with Smigel bringing his songwriting skills to the musical task). Here, the trio teamed up to direct a computer-generated cartoon whose sense of humor will inevitably remind adults of Sandler’s first man-boy comedy, “Billy Madison.” Meanwhile, younger audiences are encouraged to think about “Charlotte’s Web.”
Chances are you already know what happens to the spider at the end of EB White’s book. “Leo” takes advantage of that awareness, presenting a story in which the old lizard senses that death is near and decides that it is absolutely necessary to see the world before croaking. The problem is that the only way out of the classroom for Leo and his reptile friend is Squirtle (Bill Burr) is through student volunteers. Grumpy substitute Mrs. Malkin (Cecily Strong) encourages her class to take home one of the animals each weekend. That seems like a surefire recipe for abuse, which Leo takes advantage of by opening his big mouth and talking to the first girl who raises her hand, the motormouth Summer (Sunny Sandler). She might be more popular if she shut up and showed interest in what other people have to say, Leo suggests, and sure enough, that strategy works.
He also has some good advice for the other kids, like the immunocompromised Eli (Roey Smigel), whose parents send him to school with a floating robot babysitter, to whom he writes a “dear drone” letter (one of the funniest songs on Smigel). There’s also the secretly brilliant Mia (Reese Lores), who is struggling with her parents’ divorce; obligatory bully Anthony (Ethan Smigel); Cole with a broken voice (Bryant Tardy when the character speaks and Corey J when it’s time to sing); and a popular girl named Jayda (Sadie Sandler), whom Leo convinces that “she’s not that cool”… but in a good way (via the very fun song “Extra Time”).
It may have been 74 years since Smigel, Sandler and co-writer Paul Sado were in school, but as parents, they understand the fun of today’s kids. Some observations, like the joke in which the rambunctious kindergarteners run amok (represented as a swarm of piranha-shaped dolls), are as true now as ever, but they get a fun new twist in the hands of the filmmakers.
The basic premise – seeing the world through the eyes of a (mostly) inanimate children’s toy – fits the formula Pixar established with “Toy Story,” twisting it so that all the animals can talk; They simply choose to close their lips when humans are around. But not Leo. He has many opinions and tricks each of the children into believing they are special, which will surely backfire when they discover that he knows all of their embarrassing insecurities.
As immature as Sandler’s sense of humor has been in the past, he seems to have a good handle on what motivates kids. The movie can consist of making silly jokes one minute and offering practical advice the next, ending with the sensible suggestion to “find your Leo.” An iguana chooses a confidant who is quite original (slow, lazy, and uniquely capable of growing a docked tail) and who seems reasonably attractive to real-life fifth graders, who might benefit from the talking animal’s underlying message: that the La The best way to solve problems is to put them into words.