Ballerina review: an animated tale that dances along lightly

One for the kids, this part puppy love story, part knockabout farce features superb animated choreography and an excellent voice cast

Paris Opera Ballet stars helped create the superb choreography in this French-Canadian animation.

Film Title: Ballerina

Director: Eric Summer and Éric Warin

Starring: Elle Fanning, Dane DeHaan, Maddie Ziegler, Carly Rae Jepsen

Genre: Animation

Running Time: 89 min

Fri, Dec 23, 2016, 10:52

   

The Belle Époque is in full swing, and wannabe ballerina Félicie (Elle Fanning) dreams of escaping life in a Breton orphanage, and running away to the French capital. One wacky chase scene later, and she and her best friend Victor (Dane DeHaan), an aspiring inventor, are on their way to Paris, where she hopes to train at the Académie Royale de Musique.

Encounters with Odette (Carly Rae Jepsen), a kindly maid, and Camille (reality TV star Maddie Zeigler), a bratty dancer, and a particularly useful coincidence mean that Félicie might just have a shot. Unless, of course, boys and tomfoolery get in the way.

Everyone, but especially younger aspiring dancers, is sure to gasp at the superb choreography in this French-Canadian animation, as created with the assistance of Paris Opera Ballet stars, Aurélie Dupont and Jérémie Bélingard. Parisian landmarks – often, as with the half-built Eiffel Tower, in their infancy – are lovingly recreated. The voice cast, too, are exceptional, enlivening dialogue that frequently sounds as though it has lost a little something in translation.

If only the plot was worthy of their efforts. Ballerina, alas, cannot decide if it’s a puppy love story or a knockabout farce. Félicie’s suitors – including a Russian prince – suggest the former, yet these subplots sits uneasily beside flatulence gags and a ludicrous cartoonish villain. We’re unsure about the target demographic, because we’re unsure about the heroine’s age.

Worse, there is logic to the internal timing. A series of classes suggest that the film takes place over a week or so. But Félicie’s post-curricular practice – you gotta have a montage, right? – hints at a long, arduous process based on teeny, tiny, incremental improvements. You know, like with ballet.

Younger dance-crazed viewers who don’t like to pick out plot holes will likely get along perfectly well.