LEO (NETFLIX) (2023)

SYNOPSIS: Actor and comedian Adam Sandler (Hotel Transylvania, The Wedding Singer) delivers signature laughs in this coming-of-age animated musical comedy about the last year of elementary school – as seen through the eyes of a class pet. Jaded 74-year-old lizard Leo (Sandler) has been stuck in the same Florida classroom for decades with his terrarium-mate turtle (Bill Burr). When he learns he only has one year left to live, he plans to escape to experience life on the outside but instead gets caught up in the problems of his anxious students — including an impossibly mean substitute teacher. It ends up being the strangest but most rewarding bucket list ever…


Let’s face it, Leo is a much more entertaining, funny and heartfelt animation than his various Hotel Transylvania outings combined. Adam Sandler and his family is basically on a roll on Netflix after You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah.

Sandler voices a 74-year-old reptile, Leo who are stuck in a small tank in a fifth grade classroom with his best friend, Squirtle the turtle (Bill Burr). When a parent of a child commented that a reptile has only a lifespan of 75 years, Leo hopes to live his remaining days out in the open. But when the stern substitute teacher, Ms Malkin (Cecily Strong) instructs that every student shall take turns to bring the class pet home every weekend, Leo becomes sort of an adviser and trusting figure to the students who are each facing their own set of growing up issues and problems.

In the end, Leo manages to change the habit of Summer (Sunny Sandler), the girl who can’t seem to stop talking, convinces Eli that there is more to life than a drone and the class rich girl, Jayda (Sandie Sandler) who craves for some attention and love. Important yet applicable life lessons indeed from a 74 year old reptile.

With the help of Australian effects house, Animal Logic for the CGI, the story co-wrote by Sandler and his Happy Madison frequent collaborator and SNL regular writer Robert Smigel is a clever mix of musical, comedy and uplifting teachable material. That’s kind of rare coming from Sandler who usually comes up with a series of lazy goofy gags especially given his not so great Hotel Transylvania series.

Still, Sandler’s comedic timing is ever present here with his trademark moments of cheap poo and pee jokes opposite Burr who plays his jealous friend although this time is very much bearable. There’s also a wacky gag involving Leo losing his tail to a Roomba and a tongue-in-cheek joke that referenced Godzilla. Things got a bit crazy in the end when an overzealous Ms Malkin decides to abandon Leo in the wild everglades. Time for some good old nature and alligator gags.

Interestingly, the animation is stuffed with songs in which the lyrics are far more witty and hilarious than the unmemorable musical tunes. Honestly, despite Sandler’s usual friends appearing in bit roles, Rob Schneider appearing as the school principle and Nick Swardson as Cinnabun (guess it? A bunny), the animation belongs to Sandler who somehow manages to charm his way and channel his energy to a tuatara. If this goes on, Disney and Pixar might find themselves a strong competitor in the unlikely form of Happy Madison.


Review by Linus Tee