Ballerina is the feel-good animation of the year that will leave you completely mesmerised by the stunning dance sequences of pirouettes, leaps and turns.
In a world filled with a constant barrage of animated films, it’s a breath of fresh air with its attention to detail, genuinely amusing dialogue and magnificent backdrop that includes construction of both the Eiffel Tower and Statue of Liberty (or ‘Statue of Puberty’.)
Set in late 19th Century Paris, Ballerina is the story of Félicie, a young orphan from Brittany (voiced by Elle Fanning, Maleficent) who dreams of being a dancer at the Paris Opera. We are first introduced to her and best friend Victor – a budding young inventor with some hairbrained ideas up his sleeve – at their stately orphanage, where we find Félicie trying unsuccessfully to escape to Paris. Despite the setback, Félicie’s unwavering spirit shines through and the two eventually make it to Paris, with the help of pure luck, one of Victor’s inventions and some strategically placed chickens.
Alone in Paris when she is separated from Victor, who joins inventor Gustave Eiffel’s workshop, she meets the mysterious caretaker Odette, voiced by Canadian singer Carly Rae Jepsen of Call Me Maybe fame, along with ruthless super-brat Camille, voiced by Dance Mom’s Maddie Ziegler and her equally mean mother.
While it’s never a good idea to commit an act of fraud to get what you want, this is exactly what our heroine Félicie does to get into dance school. Once in, she is belittled by her choreographer for her lack of technique and grace. Her commitment to the cause offsets her lack of formal training, and with Odette’s help, she undergoes a grueling series of workouts to realise her passion and dream. It’s hard not to find yourself siding with Félicie against the snooty Camille, who clearly needs taking down a peg or two.
Even kids and adults who aren’t into ballet should be enthralled with the dance sequences. Ballerina uses key frame animation of real dancers to translate realistic ballet sequences into animated scenes, which is possibly why the dance routines are so impressive. The soundtrack is an uplifting mix of pop tunes, including a few tracks by Carly Rae Jepsen herself.
Central to the plot are themes of courage, pursuing dreams and friendship, with sidekick Victor’s unwavering loyalty turning into budding romance, even with another possible suitor for Félicie in the picture. The romance factor could easily have been left out of the script, given the already busy plot and predictable nature of kids’ films.
Regardless, there’s not much to fault with Ballerina – it’s cleverly written, with plenty of action scenes and jokes for kids, while there’s a few funny moments that only the adults will understand, making it an ideal intergenerational film.
Ballerina is a graceful combination of awesome ballet sequences, skilful dialogue and a main character you just can’t help but cheer on. If you’re looking for an alternative to the overwatched animations of recent times, this is one to check out this summer.
Ballerina is open in cinemas across the country from January 12th.