Fans of classical ballet most likely will emerge from Mao's Last Dancer full of good feelings about Swan Lake and the graceful athleticism of the movie's star, Chi Cao, a Chinese-born dancer and principal of the Birmingham Royal Ballet.
All others beware: This based-on-real-life tale of artistic aspirations and international politics is packed with more corn than an Iowa silo.
Bruce Beresford, the veteran director of such Oscar fare as Tender Mercies and Driving Miss Daisy, apparently didn't know when to quit, overplaying the already hokey script at every turn. And at every pirouette and plié.
Adapted from Li Cunxin's autobiography of the same name, Mao's Last Dancer follows a peasant boy (he is "Sixth Son," out of seven) taken from his parents' home in the dusty Chinese outback and trained at the prestigious Beijing Dance Academy. (Li is played by two children and a teenager before Chi steps in.) He is a remarkably gifted young dancer with the potential to become one of the People's Republic's cultural stars.