If you don’t leap, you’ll never learn how to fly. However, if you don’t see this movie, you won’t miss much.
For years, Disney has been the behemoth to beat as rival studios vie to see who can produce a heartwarming child’s tale that has depth, range and becomes so touching that kids love it well into their own adulthood and share it with their own children.
The Weinstein Company is the latest studio to give this a go and…well, to quote Jon Lovitz’ the Critic, “It stinks.”
On paper, the plot has all the trappings of a kids’ story that should be beloved through the ages. In the 1800s, two orphans from the French countryside, Felicie and Victor, escape their orphanage and head off to Paris to pursue their dreams. Victor wants to become a great inventor, while Felicie dreams of becoming a ballerina.
Felicie beguiles her way into a ballet school but relies on ex-ballerina turned scullery maid Odette to teach her, paving the way for Mr. Miyagi style lessons as Odette gets her student to perform mundane tasks that cause her student to learn ballet.
With an interesting storyline and a historic backdrop featuring fights/chases on the scaffolding surrounding the Statue of Liberty and Eiffel Tower while they are being built, you’d think this would be a slam dunk. Instead, it’s like the ball was pulled out of the hoop and flushed down the toilet.
I could go on and on about the problems in this movie but the main one is that this is a period piece and yet…there’s a lot of modern references. Sure, Disney films aren’t exactly historical documentaries but they at least don’t go out of their way to break the period setting.
Meanwhile, this film contains a number of words/phrases from modern times that act like speed bumps, shaking up what might have otherwise a smooth ride. The one that stands out in my mind is that the villainess of the film, the mother of a rival ballet student, chases Felicie around Paris with a hammer and shouts, “Stop! Hammer time!”
I mean. Seriously. Holy shit. Whoever allowed that line into this film, go stand in the corner and think about what you have done.
Worse, the use of modern pop music abounds. The crux of the film rests on two rival ballerinas competing for a part in “The Nutcracker” yet during the final big dance routine, we don’t hear something like “The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies” but instead, Demi Lovato’s “Confident” blares.
Look, I have no idea how that decision was made but personally, I envision a dopey Hollywood executive shouting, “Oh no! Kids will never sit through classical music! Crank up some Demi Lovato while this 19th century ballerinas compete!
Also, one of the ballerinas wears pink leg warmers and a headband that seem out of place. Honestly, I can’t tell you for absolute certain that pink leg warmers didn’t exist in the 1800s but the kid basically walks around in an 1800s period piece looking like her mom dressed her with the help of the Target girls’ active wear department.
So…all in all, the Weinsteins had their chance and they blew it. I know when I saw the trailers for this film I wondered if we might see a heartwarming, historic film that might make Disney sweat. Instead, it was a pile of poop.
Say what you will about Disney, but they have their craft down and they keep in mind both the kids and the parents who bring them, creating a stories that work on different levels, reaching out to young and old alike.
Ultimately, that’s the key to whether or not an animated film stands the test of time. The kids will like this and that of course is the most important thing, i.e. that the kids have a good time, but the parents who bring their kids are going to be looking at it as absolute drek. Plus, when the kids who like it today become parents tomorrow, I don’t they’ll rush to show it to their kids as by then they will have grown up and realized that Demi Lovato songs ruin 1800s ballerina movies.
Perhaps the silver lining is that this movie will no doubt inspire a lot of extra sign ups for dance classes from little girls all over the country. Good news for the girls, maybe lukewarm news for the parents who have to get up early and drive them to practice.
STATUS: Not shelf-worthy.