Film: On your toes – dreams do come true in fantasy adventure

A young girl chases her dream of being a ballerina. Félicie has one dream, and has done all her life: to become a dancer at the world's best ballet school in the animated fantasy Ballerina, writes Damon Smith

A young girl dreams of becoming a ballerina...
Damon Smith

MONEY makes the world go around, but when it comes to the pursuit of lifelong dreams, obscene wealth is powerless next to raw talent and boundless vitality.

That's the heartwarming message of Eric Summer and Eric Warin's cloying computer-animated fable about a chirpy, flame-haired orphan with a burning desire to become a dancer in late 19th century Paris.

Mawkish sentiment pirouettes alongside narrative contrivance in Ballerina, a French-Canadian co-production set to an anachronistic soundtrack of upbeat contemporary pop songs in the shadow of a partially constructed Eiffel Tower.

Dance sequences are nimbly choreographed by Aurelie Dupont and Jeremie Belingard, who capture the grace and physical exertion of ballet as digital characters express their emotions through movement on the streets of the French capital.

Elle Fanning provides a warm vocal performance as the plucky heroine who doesn't know a rond de jambe from a grand jete, but has tenacity and fiery determination in abundance.

Meanwhile, 14-year-old dancer Maddie Ziegler, who appears in Sia's music videos, essays a two-dimensional bully, who is destined to get her comeuppance before the end credits roll.

Ever since she was young, Felicie (Fanning) has wanted to dance at the best ballet school in the world, the Theatre National de L'Opera.

Unfortunately, she lives in an orphanage in rural Brittany with best friend Victor (Dane DeHaan), who dreams of becoming an inventor.

"We arrived at the same time and we'll escape at the same time," Felicie assures Victor and the resourceful girl hatches a plan to sneak onto a train that chugs past the orphanage.

At large in Paris, Felicie befriends former prima ballerina Odette (Carly Rae Jepsen), who now works as a caretaker for snarling grand dame, Regine Le Haut.

Her insufferable brat daughter, Camille Le Haut (Ziegler), is poised to audition at the Theatre National de L'Opera thanks to madame's influence.

"I'm a star, you're just orbiting me!" Camille rudely informs Felicie.

In a fit of rage, Felicie pretends to be the arrogant Le Haut and gains admission to the school, where she strives to impress choreographer Louis Merante (Terrence Scammell).

Meanwhile, Victor becomes an apprentice to Gustave Eiffel, who is completing "the Statue Of Puberty".

Ballerina grooves enthusiastically through dance movie cliches, including a montage of the heroine honing her craft, and last-minute doubts on the eve of an important audition for The Nutcracker.

The stakes are high, but there's no sense of jeopardy in the linear script and a tepid romance between Felicie and the school's blond dreamboat is a fleeting distraction from the girl's true love.

Animation is somewhat crude, but whenever visuals lack detail and richness, vocal performances compensate with gushing emotion.

For little girls who share Felicie's dream, Summer and Warin's film has all the right moves.

Rating: 5/10

BALLERINA (U, 89 mins) Animation/Drama/Romance/Action. Featuring the voices of Elle Fanning, Dane DeHaan, Maddie Ziegler, Carly Rae Jepsen, Terrence Scammell. Directors: Eric Summer, Eric Warin.

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