UK Release Date: 19th December 2016
Runtime: 89 minutes
Director: Eric Summer, Éric Warin
Writer: Carol Noble, Eric Summer, Laurent Zeitoun
Starring: Elle Fanning, Dane DeHaan, Maddie Ziegler, Carley Rae Jepsen, Terrence Scammell, Julie Khaner
Synopsis: A poor orphan girl who dreams of becoming a professional ballet dancer manages to get herself an opportunity to audition for a major production at the prestigious Paris Opera Ballet.
As a parent, it is important to me that animated movies are educational. In that sense, the bizarre French-Canadian film Ballerina is a runaway success at giving an insight into where Poundland movies lived their life before they ended up next to Dawn French stand-up DVDs and cut-price boxes of Maltesers.
The best thing that can be said about Ballerina is that it is earnest. Its simple message of chasing your dream no matter what the obstacles are is nice if you live in a world completely separated from reality. It also has some moderately entertaining set pieces, but that’s about all that can be said in its favour.
It follows orphan girl Felicie (Elle Fanning), who loves to dance. She escapes her orphanage and manages to gain entry to the national ballet school, where she steals the identity of Camille (Maddie Ziegler) to get herself in and then tries to prove herself as a dancer in time to secure a part in a huge production of The Nutcracker.
Nothing that is positive in this movie is new, which just leaves more exposure to its glaring faults. Its characters are one-note, predictable and follow all of the ‘against-all-odds’ kids’ animated story clichés that you can imagine. Dane DeHaan, who really needs a new agent, gives a spirited performance as Victor, who is the main character’s invention-obsessed best friend. Everybody else seems to have resigned themselves to the fact that this is by the numbers, needed-the-work voice acting.
The only thing more poorly drawn than the characters and plot in Ballerina is the animation itself. This year, we’ve seen Disney push animation to photo-real levels with films like Moana, and it’s shocking to think that, in this film, the characters have trouble walking and moving. Camille’s mother, the competitive and unreasonable villain of the piece, has all of the elegance of a video game cut scene from the 1990s.
When an animated movie can’t animate itself right, you’ve got nothing but a struggle ahead of you. Whether it’s the predictable plot turns, the fact Carley Rae Jepsen does one of the voice performances, or the fact they manage to slip Demi Lovato songs into a movie set in 19th century Paris – this is a bland and confusing struggle from start to finish.
Pop or Poop?
In a year that has showcased remarkable work from the major animation studios, it’s dispiriting to see a film like Ballerina that struggles to even get the basics right. The visuals in this film are poor, the vocal performances and the phoned-in and the story cleaves closely to just about every generic convention it can find.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.