For children’s animated movies, as parents, we find ourselves relying on the big studios like Disney, Dreamworks, Illumination and a few international companies like Studio Ghibli to provide the most anticipated and sought after films that drop the kid’s jaws and have them flooding the theaters. This makes it confusing when companies like Lionsgate and Entertainment One decides to put out a movie of questionable box office draw in wide release, like last year’s January release of the Rob Schneider polar bear movie Norm Of The North or the Scandanavian made Robinson Crusoe adaptation The Wild Life. Well, the latter company, under it’s French Canadian moniker, Seville, puts out one of those types of movies, Ballerina, and I’m not even sure any of the target audience even knows about it.
Set in 1880s France, the film follows Félicie (Elle Fanning), an orphan living in Brittany who dreams of being a ballet star. Together with her best friend Victor (Dane DeHaan), she escapes the grounds of the orphanage to Paris, where she sneaks into the school of the Paris Opera Ballet. After being caught by the groundskeeper, she follows the crippled cleaner Odette (Carly Rae Jepsen), who works for the the opera, to her other job at the house of a rich and ruthless woman. She begs Odette to take her in and help her. Odette agrees only on the agreement that Félicie will help with the housework but during this, the young orphan comes across the employer’s spoiled daughter’s invitation to train at the Paris Opera Ballet and decides to assume her identity.
The message of Ballerina is admirable and one to absorb for the kids. It’s simple, follow your dreams and conquer your obstacles. Even the animation is more than passable. Maybe not dazzling like some of the Pixar or Disney films we get once or twice a year but it wasn’t as horribly boxy as that Norm Of The North, and I swear that’s the last time I’ll bring it up. Where the film’s failings are, lie with the need for the animation company to make the movie more accessible to an English-speaking audience. It just makes the entire film clunky and you can hear the gears grinding with each line delivery. No matter how charming Fanning and DeHaan can be, the cream of this crop in this cast, the obvious language shift makes it glide like a sentence spoken in Google translate.
At a slight and quick time span, Ballerina will fly by in less than an hour and a half but some of the kids may not feel engaged by the first act and this may have lost the battle for the film even before it really gets going. I feel the production of this movie is very well meaning but it doesn’t ever feel like something memorable and maybe that’s why the studio refrained from pushing it heavily. The stars aren’t well known, the story is pretty formulaic but the film is utterly harmless, besides misspeaking the name of the Statue of Liberty as the Statue Of Puberty, which I may have chuckled at. I wonder why the push for the big screen took place for a movie that would have been better suited for a video on demand release. I’m not saying that Ballerina isn’t worth a watch for the kids but I wouldn’t say you should line up at the cinema for it. 2.5/5