Ballerina – Movie Review
Rating: C+ (Above Average)
Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy eOne Films
It can sometimes be hard to have a critical hat on most of the time. Occasionally, you come across a film that is clearly not meant to be dissected in any meaningful way and is aimed at a specific niche audience that will probably appreciate it more. Ballerina is a flawed film and it’s hampered by an unfortunate English dub, but the target audience will not be bothered by these elements. As films aimed at seven year old ballet fan girls go (and admittedly, there are not many movies that fall into this specific category), Ballerina is harmless enough. It is produced with a level of competence and it somewhat picks up in the third act. However, this lacks the general audience appeal that might greet a Pixar or a Disney production and it’s not trying to attempt that.
The main issue with Ballerina comes with the English language track that has been dubbed over this French-Canadian co-production. The dialogue is written in an overly simplistic manner and the voice actors lack the required energy. Everyone is dialed down and directed to act on a single note through the entire course of the film. This sadly affects one’s investment in the characters and it takes a while to get into the groove of things. Every single character is one-dimensional with singular goals. The central antagonists, a rival for the titular ballerina and her commanding mother, are written in the most stereotypical manner possible.
The attempts at humour don’t quite create the desired effect, going for obvious slapstick gags. Once again, one wonders if these jokes sell better in the original track. It becomes tempting, when sitting at the screening to grab a universal remote and change the audio settings. The story does somewhat pick up in the third act when real stakes enter into the picture. One finally begins to care about the outcome and there is some character growth, even in a couple of unexpected characters. On the other hand, the rival mother doesn’t stop becoming a knock-off of Cinderella’s evil step-mother, albeit without the nuance that made her a memorable villain in the Disney classic.
Directors Eric Summer and Eric Warin take full advantage of the camera during the few chase sequences and they bring a little bit of spark to the proceedings. The animation is nicely realised with the streets and rooftops of Paris being beautifully rendered. The character animation is nothing to write home about and a couple of designs threaten to enter the uncanny valley, but they do their job reasonably enough. The dance sequences prove to be the highlights of Ballerina. There are some stunning scenes in the film and one can see where the directors put most of their resources towards.
However, maybe a lot of those criticisms are all for naught. Looking at Ballerina from an adult point-of-view and having consumed many animated features, it does fall short of being memorable and leaving a lasting impression. However, if a young girl with a love for ballet and dancing were to watch it, they might be more enchanted by the film and even be inspired by it. While the appeal for Ballerina may not translate to viewers over the age of twelve, it will probably work just fine for its target audience. In the end, that can sometimes be all that matters.