'Leo' Review Roundup: Adam Sandler's Musical Comedy Provides Jokes and Lessons for the Whole Family

Netflix added the new animated musical comedy "Leo," starring Adam Sandler, to its platform on Tuesday after showing it for free in 150 theaters on November 11 and 12.

Reviews praised "Leo" for its sharp animation, bona fide sense of humor, and impressively performed voice acting. Some critics have questioned whether the film is too broad to be a hit with certain age groups and demographics, but so far the consensus seems to be that families checking out the film this Thanksgiving weekend will enjoy the experience.

Leo stars as Sandler, a 74-year-old classroom lizard who learns he has one year to live. Instead, he becomes obsessed with helping the fifth graders in his classroom solve their problems in a bucket list adventure.

The film was directed by longtime Sandler collaborators Robert Smigel, Robert Marianetti, and David Wachtenheim. Smigel, Sandler, and Paul Sado wrote the screenplay. Animation was done by Animal Logic ("The Lego Movie," "DC League of Super Pets"), which was acquired by Netflix last year.

Critics' comments on "Leo," now available on Netflix, include.

Lovia Gyarkye of The Hollywood Reporter says that the whole family will benefit equally from Leo's message:

The comedy... . fits within a conventional framework. But what makes Leo special is the kind of lessons offered. Its message is timely for a generation that will be hostage to their parents' insecurities and inherit a world full of problems. Leo urges adults to let go and reminds children that growing up is not so scary.

Variety's Peter DeBruge says parents should get a kick out of the film:

It may have been 74 years since Smigel, Sandler, and co-writer Paul Sadow were students, but as parents, they understand. Some observations, like the joke about the rampaging kindergartner (portrayed as a horde of piranha-like bobbleheads), remain the same today, but take a hilarious new turn in the filmmakers' hands.

Indiewire's David Ehrlich worries that the film doesn't quite know what its audience is or should be:

Smigel, Sandler, and Paul Sadow's episodic script is not enough to appeal to both audiences simultaneously It is hardly firing on enough cylinders. Most of the gags are too fifth-grade funny to land for adults (e.g., Mr. Malkin uses "hug-off" spray to repel an overly affectionate student), most of the messages focus on the shortcomings of modern adults and Leo's impending death due to old age, and It's too focused on them, and it doesn't feel like the kids are talking to themselves. Like many of the parenting philosophies it ridicules, "Leo" works better in theory than in practice. And like many of the children that such parenting philosophies produce, Leo fails to reach its full potential.

Claire Shaffer of The New York Times is similarly confused about which audience Leo's comedy and wisdom serves:

"Leo" sometimes has trouble identifying its audience. The visuals in the musical scenes are not particularly funny and will drag on for adults, but it is difficult to imagine children sitting through Leo and Lischatl's endless diatribes about divorced parents and reptilian courtship behavior without being bored. But with the holidays approaching and families gathering this time of year, this film will definitely serve as something to play in the background for everyone.

Benjamin Lee's three-star review in The Guardian probably best sums up the critical consensus that, despite some flaws, "Leo" is a great movie for kids of all ages:

It is a lazy throwback It's a musical of sorts, with a series of half-numbers that range from the left-out to the charmingly committed, and everything stops before it really begins. The endgame antagonist and the inevitable quest, a disjointed scramble, but the climax is a worthy reminder for children to share rather than dwell on their problems. Brightly animated and surprisingly insightful, Leo's warmly likeable film is a delight.