Formulaic French-Canadian animation featuring the voices of Elle Fanning and Dane DeHaan
This animated love letter to the city of Paris, directed by Eric Summer and Éric Warin, plays out like a ballet version of The Karate Kid, with little orphan Félicie Milliner (voiced by Elle Fanning) striving to reach her dream of performing at the Grand Opera House. Her Mr Miyagi is cleaner Odette (singer Carly Rae Jepsen), her rival rich kid Camille (Maddie Ziegler) – who she competes with for a place in The Nutcracker – and her crane kick a glorious grand jeté.
The rich backdrop and magnificent architecture of 1879 is brought to sparkling life with a realist approach and fine attention to detail. The invention of Gustave Eiffel features prominently when Félicie's best friend – the calamitous Victor (Dane DeHaan), who has a keen interest in design and engineering – takes a job in Eiffel's studio. The choreography, from acclaimed dancers Aurélie Dupont and Jérémie Bélingard, is magical and when Félicie first witnesses the beauty of ballet you feel her awe thanks to the elegant and fluid animation. However, the soundtrack is a mishmash of eras and styles – from classical to treacly pop that clashes with the period setting – although it does feature a belter of a track from Sia that nicely expresses how the protagonist's love of dance brings her great joy.
Ultimately this story of a tiny dancer realising her potential is too formulaic and too lacking in comic zing to deliver anything marvellously thrilling. The slapstick tumbles through the city should appeal to a younger audience but there's more passion for the technical aspects than there is interest in credibly conveying the characters' emotions. Moreover, this film about finding yourself gets a little lost as it tries to cram in elements from a multitude of inspirations.
General release from Mon 19 Dec.