A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that for children interested in the performing arts, this family-friendly movie and its emphasis on a rigid training regimen as a road to sure success will be appealing. A loving family comprising three girls adopted from around the world and their guardian and nanny is depicted, working together to overcome tough economic times in Britain in the 1930s. One child runs away but returns without harm. Expect plenty of era-appropriate smoking as well.
What's the story?
Adapted from the 1937 book of the same title by British author Noel Streatfeild , BALLET SHOES tells the tale of the three Fossil sisters, orphans whose benefactor Great Uncle Matthew (Richard Griffiths) brings to London in the 1930s to be raised by his niece Sylvia (Emelia Fox) and the formidable Nana (Victoria Wood) while he continues his world adventures. As money runs low for the family, Pauline (Emma Watson), Petrova (Yasmin Paige), and Posy (Lucy Boynton) enroll in a performing arts school so that they can get theater jobs to help augment the family income. But each grapples with problems -- Pauline with her ego, Petrova with her ambivalence towards acting compared with her true love of flying, and Pansy with white-hot ambition -- that leave the family's "happy ending" in jeopardy.
Is it any good?
Ballet Shoes presents an interesting slice of life that may seem anachronistic to children raised in the era of celebrity worship, and may require some explanation of the term "working actor." As the sisters achieve success on stage and in film, the family's money prospects don't visibly improve; they must still take in boarders and worry about paying the bills between curtain calls. There are also some mixed messages about the value of ambition and hard work: The sister who dreams of landing another steady acting job is accused of being selfish, though it's clear that those jobs are keeping the family afloat. Another sister who shows real talent as a ballerina is chastised when she speaks of her ambition, becomes unsympathetic in her pursuit of it, but then is lauded when she lands a spot with a professional ballet.
The cast of this BBC production is top notch, and fans of Hermione in the Harry Potter movies will probably enjoy seeing Watson in the Pauline role, though her acting is upstaged by that of the girls playing her sisters. Costumes, soundtrack, and sets are as high value as one would expect from a BBC production, bringing 1930s London to life. And scenes of the girls working hard to improve at the performing arts school emphasize that perennial lesson -- that nothing worth achieving comes easily. Ballet Shoes is a fine family film and shows that girl power isn't necessarily a modern invention.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the sacrifices that each family member makes when they begin to run short on money. Which character sacrifices the most? Which of the three sisters do you like the best, and why? What do you think happened to Pauline, Petrova, and Pansy after the movie story ends?
- In theaters: December 26, 2007
- On DVD or streaming: September 2, 2008
- Cast: Emma Watson, Lucy Boynton, Yasmin Paige
- Director: Sandra Goldbacher
- Studio: BBC
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Arts and dance, Book characters, Brothers and sisters
- Run time: 84 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: smoking.
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