Ballerina (2016)

(In French, In theatres, March 2017) I don’t expect that many people will ever see the Franco-Canadian animated film Ballerina, and that’s too bad: While it’s a bit clunky, predictable and suffers from the limits of its budget and/or skillset, it’s a charming look at the world of ballet for kids, a rousing adventure and an inspiring you-can-do-it motivator. Featuring a young orphan girl dreaming of escaping her provincial orphanage to dance in Paris, Ballerina manages to make us believe in how a gifted but untrained girl could develop as a ballerina in a few days. (Meanwhile, her male friend is up to some engineering shenanigans in the shadow of Gustave Eiffel’s work.) The best moments in Ballerina come as we’re given an entertaining glimpse into the world of ballet, as our heroine is tutored by a grumpy ex-dancer. Despite the film’s occasionally stiff character animation (especially in the early sequences), those sequences flow well and show some cinematic joy. The ending sequence is also cleverly balanced between action and dance, making us temporarily forget about the kids-grade plot cheats required to get there. The jukebox selection of modern pop songs is occasionally baffling, but then again the movie does play to its audience. Nonetheless, Ballerina is a likable film, and one that should have a much better fate as an on-demand offering than in theatres. At the very least, it’s a must-see in the vicinity of little girls with an interest in ballet.

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