Ballerina is a finely crafted 3D animation film set in 19th-century France. Featuring the voices of Elle Fanning, Maddie Ziegler and singer-songwriter Carly Rae Jepsen, this production follows in the footsteps of movies like Brave and Frozen, where a strong female lead overcomes unthinkable odds to achieve a goal far removed from the traditional “happily ever after” idolised in tales of old.
Félicie Milliner (Fanning) is a spirited redheaded teenager who dreams of becoming a pupil at the Paris Opera Ballet School. To gain access to these prestigious classes, she steals the identity of a snobbish young blonde dancer (Ziegler) whose violently competitive mother lives vicariously through her. The inexperienced orphan is fortunate enough to be taken under the wing of a mysterious ex-ballerina-turned-caretaker with a limp (Jepsen) who teaches her the ropes throughout a countless array of Rocky-style training montages.
The settings are immaculate, the characters emotive and irresistibly big-eyed, and the story follows a classic thread of overcoming adversity and following one’s passion. Félicie’s best friend from the orphanage, Victor (Dane DeHaan), is given a quick side-plot and virtually pushed out of the main narrative. His clumsy demeanour falls short on humour and only makes him more insufferable as the narration progresses. He primarily serves as the protagonist’s grovelling deus ex machina whenever she is in a sticky predicament or needs something fixed.
This dance-themed feature does not disappoint on the choreographic front. The animators used the moves of two stars of the Paris Opera Ballet in order to generate realistic and captivating grace. Unfortunately, in an attempt to appeal to their young demographic, the directors overwhelmingly use corny bubblegum pop as a soundtrack rather than exploring the more interesting possibilities that this film’s subject matter has to offer. There is something distinctly silly about an anachronistically dressed American girl in denim shorts and leggings performing a dramatic balletic dance-off with her bratty rival on the Paris Opera stage – set to a sparkly pop anthem.
Ballerina has its ups and downs and will certainly be an enjoyable 90 minutes for its child audience; adults, however, may doze off or burst out in chuckles at the wrong moments. For a French production, it would probably have benefitted from a taste of the country’s culture via its language and its music – as it stands, this movie does not stray off the safely beaten path of the contemporary American fairy tale.
Ballerina is released nationwide on 19th December 2016.
Watch the trailer for Ballerina here: