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Published December 25th 2016
The New Anna and Elsa?
With the juggernaut of big studio films launching Boxing Day, will English-language, French-Canadian release Ballerina find itself en pointe with moviegoers?
StudioCanal generally aligns itself with sophistication and this action-adventure family movie, directed by Eric Summer and Éric Warin, exudes this aura in terms of quality animation, clever writing and strong characterisations. Capitalising on the appeal of Elle Fanning, voicing heroine Félicie, and Sia's dancing muse Maddie Ziegler as nemesis Camille, Ballerina banks itself on star-pull and formulaic themes but delivers much more than your average wise-cracking animated tale.
From the opening frame of the film, the detail-laden realism of the 3D-animation sparkles on the screen. We are transported to a grandiose orphanage building in 19th Century Brittany where we meet the spirited Félicie, and her best friend Victor (voiced by star-on-the-rise Dane DeHaan). The two pre-teens dream of a life beyond the orphanage and neither are short of passion nor ambition, with Félicie wanting to dance ballet for the Paris Opera, and Victor searching for greatness as an inventor in the City of Lights.
An uplifting soundtrack and a hair-raising opening action sequence provide the customary amount of adventure to reel in a young audience, and like Frozen, the film focuses on an engaging female lead, positioning itself as aspirational, particularly for young girls.
Studio Canal's promotional banner for the animated film, Ballerina
Once over the first hurdle, Félicie and Victor arrive in 1879 Paris, nostalgically depicted in gloriously vivid animation, positioning the movie in a bygone era, without for a moment becoming stuffy or old-fashioned.
What follows is a fast-paced narrative in which wide-eyed young girl takes on the big city with only her courage and her dreams, helped along the way by loyal friends (including DeHaan's Victor and Carly Rae Jepsen's Odette), and thwarted by spiteful villains (including Ziegler's Camille).
By the film's exciting denouement, you may feel you have ridden this rollercoaster before but is the film's optimism enough for you to overlook its lack of originality? It depends how you view the world but for Ballerina's target audience, this new offering fits the bill. It has all the wonder of vivacious colour, fairy-tale escapism, humour and love, with an inspirational and graceful celebration of ballet as an art form.
And for the parents in the room, brow-beaten by wisecracking, big studio films, this French-Canadian offering should come as a breath of fresh air. You will be drawn in by the magnificent setting and held by the genuinely funny dialogue and characterisations, skillfully written by Eric Summer, Carol Noble and Laurent Zeitoun.
So, if 2017 is the year for your daughter to graduate from Disney's Anna and Elsa, why not introduce her to Ballerina's Félicie and Camille? Watch the official movie trailer here