You know how there are some great animated movies that are a joy to watch for kids and adults alike? Ballerina is not one of them. I was dragged to see it by my 10-year-old daughter as it looked like it was, at least, a story about a plucky girl with self-determination. When we emerged two hours later, my daughter declared, “There was just so much wrong with it!”
The story is a simple one; orphan Felicie loves to dance, which seems to involve lots of leaping and foot stamping, and, with her best friend Victor, plans to escape the orphanage where they live to learn ballet at the best school in Paris. Victor is an inventor but seems to have more imagination than sense; studying chickens for weeks to design a pair of wings for their aerial escape but failing to notice that chickens can’t fly. In Paris, Felicie gets a place in the prestigious ballet class through deception and has the chance to audition for a key part in The Nutcracker. Victor gets work with Gustave Eiffel, building the Statue of Liberty.
There are several reasons why this film doesn’t work. Felicie and Victor aren’t all that likeable; Felicie is self absorbed, Victor is an oaf, seemingly smitten with Felicie but not showing any real understanding of her. Most of the other characters are shallow stereotypes – fat goofy friend who is always eating, snobby rich girl, evil rich woman, kindly woman with a limp, arrogant handsome boy.
The storyline is ludicrously unbelievable. Felicie goes from being a terrible dancer to the best in class in around seven days – because she trains a lot and it seems you just need pluck and passion not years of training (am I reading too much into this to think it is indicative of the prevailing US Republican-led suspicion of expertise and the belief that you should be able to get where you want based on who you know and who you’re willing to trample on along the way?)
Anachronisms abound – motor cycles, denim shorts and The Nutcracker before they were invented. The Statue of Liberty still in Paris years after being installed in New York (although it’s possible this is the replica gifted by the US people to France a few years later). Evil people suddenly turn good – or stay inexplicably evil. There is a music box that seems to be important but then isn’t. The evil lady manages to leap from scaffolding to the top of the (in construction) Statue of Liberty in a corset, bustle and full-length gown.
All in all, a mess that won’t keep even a 10-year-old engaged.
Bechdel test – pass