Leo is the heartwarming story of how a lizard, who thinks he is on the brink of death, unwittingly sets out to convince an entire class of children that each one of them is special. In some ways, it is the story of a grumpy old grandpa discovering that he has love left in him for things other than himself. This story has a lot of love in it and is quite a sweet watch. First of all, Adam Sandler’s voice is a character in itself, which makes him perfect to play Leo. Also, I mean no shade when I say that he plays an age-appropriate character for once. Secondly, Bill Burr being the insensitive and jealous turtle was a nice touch, though his character could have had better jokes. Finally, the character of Summer probably has ADHD.
It is perhaps wise to mention that Leo is not just a kids’ movie. Yes, there are lots of children, and there is a talking lizard, but with the message that ‘every child is special,’ the movie beautifully manages to convey how every adult is also unique in their own way. Here, the journey is Leo’s as much as it is of the children since Leo starts the movie by discussing with his friend how similar this batch is to the others they have seen over the years. In fact, Leo has stereotyped the kids, and he is sure that he knows them already, but finding out how they function teaches him that there is more to life than the Everglades or what he believes he knows. It is a lesson most adults would do well to learn as well.
This seems to be the era of ‘woke’ children’s movies (for lack of a better term). Earlier, most animated movies seemed to be about bringing a beloved fairy tale to light or just giving us a silly and heartwarming story to feel good about. But over time, the world has realized that people internalize everything they see and hear in childhood. Therefore, each story is being remade into something more empowering, with a life lesson at the end. Essentially, the quality of timelessness that is being aimed for must be without controversy two decades down the line. It just means that there will probably come a time when revisiting such movies won’t be a guilty pleasure. None of this is a complaint; instead, it is a question as to how that world would turn out to be, one that has learned at least something from the mistakes of generations past.
The intention is not to bury the millennial culture. Leo makes a few references to Charlotte’s Web. I have not read the book, but I have heard that it is the inspiration for this movie. Research says that the story is about Charlotte, who spends her last days helping a pig named Wilbur find safety in the world. It is easy to understand who Charlotte was and who Wilbur was in the movie. The point is that this movie has acknowledged that millennials have enough literature telling them to make friends who will have their backs. It is just that we failed to read as many books as we should have and had to rely on old Disney for our cultural upbringing. We all should add the book to our wishlist.
Another beautiful thing about this movie is how it normalizes therapy for the new generation. The old generation will watch it to understand a lesson they have been trying hard to accept and inculcate for a few years now, but for the younger kids, Leo has already eliminated that struggle. Each of the kids in the film had supportive parents who cared, but having that one friend who cared, even if it was only for a weekend, ended up changing their lives. It must be said again that Summer probably has ADHD, and there should also be a movie screening for kids with ADHD and autism early in their lives. I wonder how Adam Sandler would approach that script.
Coming to the other characters for a second, maybe the Trunchbull trope needs to retire from children’s movies. In so many ways, Leo’s setting felt similar to Matilda, with Miss Malkins being Trunchbull, the previous teacher being Miss Honey, and the kids being terrorized by the former, who believes that ‘old is gold.’ Leo himself could have been Roald Dahl, with the grumpy persona and the sage advice that is as insightful as it gets. Or perhaps this opinion is the result of our recently renewed love for Roald Dahl because of Netflix’s “The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar.” Even that is worth a watch.
Leo is from Adam Sandler’s production company, and he seems to be building a tradition of making it a family affair. His daughters have voiced two of the kids in the movie, and this follows the recent release of You Are So Not Invited To My Bar Mitzvah. There is nothing but respect for a man who hustles hard for himself and his family.
Adam Sandler was one of the writers of the movie, and true to his sense of humor, he managed to slip in a few ‘inappropriate’ jokes to remind people that it is still him and Bill Burr behind the mike. I have also enjoyed the creative choice to portray all kindergarteners as the absolute same, with wide eyes and as mindless beings scrambling around and being a headache. It is details like these that remind a person that this movie is not just for kids but for adults who want to find validation for their grumpiness. This is also just the right amount of Adam Sandler that we can enjoy before turning away due to the cringiness of the immature jokes. Adam Sandler has figured out how to make kids’ movies that adults can enjoy, and he should not let go of this niche that he has cracked. Overall, this is one of those movies that reminds you that beneath the theatrically immature exterior that Adam Sandler has adopted for many years, there is a brilliant man who deeply cares about his audience. Adam Sandler has always been loveable, but it is this side of him that proves how right the audience is in loving him, despite the occasional eye rolls and criticisms they send his way. Suffice it to say, Find Your Leo should be on a poster in everybody’s rooms, next to Taylor Swift’s lyrics.