Coppelia review – ballet gets modern makeover with live-action dance and animation | Movies


Here is a cinematic adaptation of Léo Delibes’ ballet that blends animation, visual effects and live-action dancing, drawing on the rejigged story and score created for a Dutch National Ballet production of the show from 2008.

Like several other modern productions, this version updates to the present the 19th-century ETA Hoffman-derived story of a village boy lured away from his human sweetheart by a mechanical doll controlled by an evil genius. Instead of a lifesize wind-up toy danced by a prima ballerina, here Coppelia is imagined as an animated dancebot whose high blond beehive with flip curls recalls Lisa Marie’s alien temptress from Mars Attacks! Her controller, Doctor Coppelius (Vito Mazzeo), seems to be offering his services to the townsfolk as a kind of plastic surgeon, but he’s actually using brainwashing techniques to steal their human essences – strength, intelligence and something symbolised by a heart (emotional intelligence? Passion? Emoji power?) – and transfer them into Coppelia.

Local juice bar jockey Swan (Michaela DePrince) works out something is seriously amiss and teams up with her corps de ballet pals to thwart Coppelius and save her true love Franz (Daniel Camargo). Semiretired ballet superstar Darcey Bussell is on hand as the town’s mayor, but she is careful not to upstage DePrince, who really shines with a natural photogenic presence, strong acting skills and athletic form. The whole shooting match eschews the use of dialogue, so for all its modernist trappings it’s a pretty traditional ballet production – though one that uses a lot of green screen backgrounds and digital dancers. When the latter, with their uncanny-valley features, perform alongside the human cast, the difference in expressiveness is oddly unsettling, making this feel like some insane mashup of the silent film classic Metropolis, old-school dance and the children’s TV show LazyTown from the early 00s. But in a mostly fun way.

Coppelia is released on 1 April in cinemas.

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