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MOVIE | An elderly classroom pet helps children navigate life in this amusing but sometimes cringey musical


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Rated PG

Netflix and actor Adam Sandler continue their prolific partnership with Leo, an animated feature-length musical about a classroom pet who feels like he’s running out of time to make a difference in the world.

Leo (Sandler) is a tuatara, a lizardlike reptile from New Zealand. He and his tortoise friend Squirtle (Bill Burr) live in a terrarium in a fifth grade classroom in Florida. Leo’s an elderly reptile, and realizing he might not have long to live, he hatches a plan to escape to the Everglades.

His escape hinges on convincing students to take him home for the weekend. But when Leo starts talking—and singing—with the children, he realizes that they need him and that he cares about them.

Leo helps these children navigate that awkward age in which they’re just starting to grow up. One girl needs help making friends. Another needs to hear she doesn’t have to be the best to be liked. A boy feels smothered by his helicopter parents.

Don’t expect too much from this light children’s entertainment. The animation is serviceable but doesn’t break any new ground. The script has its amusing moments, but doesn’t offer any surprises. Some of the songs mimic Broadway showstoppers, but most are pretty cringey. To be fair, they’re probably supposed to be cringey, but none will work their way into your head.

As one would expect from Adam Sandler, Leo has some rude humor and frequent misuses of God’s name. In one scene, a boy asks where babies come from, and Squirtle describes amphibious procreation, leaving the boy befuddled.

On the bright side, Leo takes some sly swipes at our modern education system, and the film’s message that we’re happier when we put others before ourselves is worthwhile.

Non-Disney animated movies

  • An American Tail / 1986
  • All Dogs Go to Heaven / 1989
  • Ferngully: The Last Rainforest / 1992
  • Anastasia / 1997
  • The Prince of Egypt / 1998
  • The King and I / 1999
  • Happy Feet / 2006
  • Rio / 2011
  • Sing / 2016

Collin Garbarino

Collin is WORLD’s arts and culture editor. He is a graduate of the World Journalism Institute, the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Louisiana State University and resides with his wife and four children in Sugar Land, Texas.



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