It’s not that I have a thing against animation, it’s just that I don’t normally go out of my way to watch one. But this one had Dane DeHaan’s name plastered on it, and really, I am a sucker for that man. So I was prepared for the effect his voice usually had on me, but I was pleasantly surprised to discover that this feel good movie actually had a poignant and relatable message, suitable for children and adults alike.
Despite Mother Superior’s warning that not all dreams became reality, Félicie Milliner (Elle Fanning) still nurtured her dream to become a ballerina in Paris. Along with Victor (Dane DeHaan), her best friend who dreamed of becoming an inventor, she escaped the orphanage and arrived, at last, in the city of dream. There she met Odette (Carly Rae Jepsen), a mysterious caretaker who reluctantly gave her a place to stay.
But soon, Félicie found that sometimes, one would have to cross some lines to make their dream comes true. And so she stole Camille Le Haut’s (Maddie Ziegler) identity, along with her place in Mérante’s (Terrence Scammell) class at the Grand Opera House…
The thing about animation movies for general audience, especially one about kids pursuing their dreams, is that they’re usually generic as fuck. Bland, predictable, and thus aren’t engaging. But Ballerina caught my attention from the beginning through one upbeat song, and an overall uplifting mood that got me smiling without knowing it. Sure, the story itself isn’t new and the morale of the story is familiar. But I like how Carol Noble, Eric Summer, and Laurent Zeitoun gave it touches of reality. It basically started the story with Mother Superior’s gentle but sobering warning about the nature of dreams versus reality. But instead of the usual mocking or forbidding tone that kicks off such similar stories, this one does felt like it was given from the heart. Like one from your own parents, kindly preparing you for the eventual heartbreaks and disappointment you’d face if you keep chasing after your dream. And even as Félicie stubbornly insist to try anyway, her story isn’t exactly a fairy tale. She had to do things she’s not proud of and faced the constant threat of being exposed or eliminated everyday. Yes, she’s talented and yes, she’s quite lucky. But if it not for her passion and hard work, it would all be for naught. I think Ballerina showcased that well.
My problem with Ballerina, however, lies on the pacing. Ballerina was fun and entertaining, but Eric Summer and Éric Warin struggled just as hard as Félicie to keep a consistent pace. It has its captivating moments, but more than often my mind wandered somewhere else because what I’m seeing felt far too familiar. Thankfully, such boredom only plagued Ballerina on mundane parts of the story. When the story and situation calls for it, Ballerina is gripping and enthralling, demanding my attention as I anxiously waited to see what would happened next to those characters. Because I am invested in them. Despite being a chirpy and stubborn female lead that usually exasperated me, Elle Fanning voiced Félicie as someone likeable. Sure she makes me wants to smack her in the head when she’s acting out, but mostly my heart goes to her and I can relate to her struggle. While Dane DeHaan made Victor adorable, dependable, and dateable. Even if his character wasn’t explored as much as Félicie. Maddie Ziegler also successfully walked the thin line between annoying and pitiable as the voice for Camille. But the surprise performance came from Carly Rae Jepsen. She was so good as Odette. Intimidating, lovable, and touching. She made Odette a character that I fell for and would love to know more about. Seriously, I need to know her backstory and the story of what’s going on between her and Mérante. Whom by the way was voiced nicely by Terrence Scammell. He’s strict and stern, but he got heart and still is fair on everything.
Ballerina is a delightful story about dreaming. That sometimes, it is worth the risk to do as your heart told and follow your passion. And with the right combination of luck, guts, and hard work, you can actually beat the odds. Much like Félicie, Ballerina is flawed and flimsy at times. But it comes through at the end, and it gives a much needed dose of positivity and hope. With bomb ass soundtracks (and Dane DeHaan’s voice!) to boot.
Directors: Eric Summer & Éric Warin. Writers: Carol Noble, Eric Summer, & Laurent Zeitoun. Released on: 20 January 2017. Casts: Elle Fanning, Dane DeHaan, Carly Rae Jepsen, Maddie Ziegler, Julie Khaner, Terrence Scammell.