A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Much of the action takes place in a classroom, so kids could talk about the different teaching styles of the teacher versus the substitute, the lessons the children learn from their teachers and from Leo, and how the students' interactions with each other evolve.
Everyone's scared of something, so it doesn't help to keep your fears and problems to yourself. Find a trusted adult or friend to listen to you. Life gets more complicated the older you get, but kids are aware of adult problems like divorce and death, and they need help processing the anxieties that can come with these realities. Leo helps the kids learn lessons of humility, inclusion, and self-love, and to confront fears, insecurities, and problems.
Positive Role Models
Leo bonds with the kids as he listens to their individual problems and helps them come up with strategies for addressing them. In doing so, he shows great empathy for them, no matter who they are or what they're feeling. They return the favor, coming to his rescue when needed. Squirtle also comes to his good friend Leo's rescue. Leo confronts his old age and fears of dying. Ms. Malkin, unhappy and lonely in her older age, acts selfishly because she thinks this will bring her happiness, but she's wrong. Some parents are overprotective of their kids, robbing them of the chance to stretch their social muscles or do things for themselves (and therefore feel better about their accomplishments). Leo and Squirtle make fun of the parents.
Kids in the animated class have a variety of skin tones and a mixture of family issues, but race, culture, and religion don't play significant roles in the story. Their problems seem intended to feel broad enough to be applicable to children from a diversity of backgrounds. A bullying child is said to act out of insecurity. One girl feels relief when she's told she's not so special after all. Another says her family doesn't understand her because she's smart and into science. Another talks too much and learns to stop and ask questions of other people. Boys learn to accept the changes that come with puberty.
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Violence & Scariness
Animated characters, especially animals, face some peril and injury. Animals recall being "abused" by children -- hit, thrown in hot water or into the air, and cut into pieces. A lizard's tail is sucked up by a vacuum and cut off (it grows back, he says). A teacher nearly falls out of a moving bus, and a child nearly crashes a full school bus he's driving because he's too small to hit the brakes fully. A man is hit by a car and is fine. Kids threaten to "destroy" a substitute teacher, planning to throw gummies at her and change their names on her. A teacher throws metal stars like a ninja, and she has a fight with an alligator. Kids deal with loss, grief, and anxiety. Parents also have fears and try to protect their kids from any dangers or difficulties.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A boy doesn't know where babies come from and says he thought they came out of his mother's "butt." A turtle confuses the matter by explaining to him how turtles lay eggs in the sand. The animals make suggestive jokes, like when Leo tries to climb into Squirtle's shell, and the turtle says he would have liked dinner first. A drone has a crush on a turtle and gives him a heart-shaped gift. The turtle takes off his shell and is in a jockstrap; we see the turtle's bottom. (We also see him pee in another scene.) Boys face puberty changes, like body hair and changing voices.
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"Suck," "butt," "pee," "tush," "brat," "dork," "stupid," "weirdo," "doo doo," "headcase," "motormouth," "snotty," "booger," "shut up," "jeez," "Oh my God."
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Products & Purchases
Arby's, Jenga, Purell, name brands mentioned in song, one schoolgirl's family is "rich."
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
A child mentions a rumor about a kid smoking in middle school. A teacher calls another substitute a "closet drunk."
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Leo is a tender animated musical starring Adam Sandler and Bill Burr as veteran classroom pets. Both the kids in the movie and those watching at home learn important lessons about empathy and self-forgiveness from wise lizard Leo (Sandler) and his ability to lend a supportive ear. Leo and other animals recall being handled roughly by small children, and Leo's tail gets cut off (he says it grows back). In other scenes, a teacher nearly falls out of a moving bus, and a child who's driving a bus full of classmates nearly crashes. Kids threaten to "destroy" a substitute teacher; they plan to throw gummies at her and change their names and not tell her. Anxious kids deal with loss, grief, insecurity, loneliness, overprotective parents, a mean substitute, and the difficulties of growing up. Mild insults and language (like "suck," "butt," "pee," "tush," "brat," "dork," "stupid," "weirdo," "doo doo") mostly revolve around body parts and bodily emissions. One character is confused about where babies come from, kids face the changes of puberty, and the animals have some mildly suggestive dialogue that's meant to be funny. A turtle's bottom is shown when he removes his shell and is seen wearing a jockstrap (and tattooed). A child mentions a rumor about a kid smoking in middle school, and one teacher calls another substitute a "closet drunk." To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
This heartwarming story about the joys and difficulties of being a kid on the verge of tweenhood features Adam Sandler at his best. In Leo, Sandler puts on his dad hat (in fact, his kids and wife are also involved in this movie) to get at the tenderness parents feel for their kids and the important role caring adults can have in their lives. His lizard Leo is like a rent-a-grandpa for the kids who take him home -- someone with a patient ear, who has seen it all, and has wisdom to impart. Sandler's lizard voice could irritate some, and there are plenty of juvenile Sandler-style jokes, mostly involving bodily emissions, but Leo is all heart. That heart comes across in dialogues as well as through some touching musical numbers.
The film has important messages for kids and could also remind some adults about the very real fears and concerns even young children feel, as well as their parallel needs for more independence and loving support. Life does get more difficult the older we get, as one character warns, and that goes for 10-year-olds too. Okay, so maybe Leo's motives aren't entirely altruistic: he wants to escape the classroom, he's concerned about being well-remembered at his funeral, and he's intent on making what he thinks are his last days count. But Leo foregoes his long-desired freedom to be with the kids, and he realizes he needs them as much as they need him. Long live Leo!
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Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.