Reviews provided by RottenTomatoes
A melodramatic clash of ideologies and a warm, deeply moving third act lift Mao's Last Dancer above politics and into the realm of emotion, art and beauty.
New York Times:
The final image -- a freeze frame of a pas de deux staged to resemble a triumphal Communist poster -- perfectly captures the film's overall effect: it's strenuously brainless.
The performance sequences feel intimate and exhilarating -- but in the end, Li's journey is compelling only when he's onstage.
Wall Street Journal:
The film celebrates artistic freedom without preaching a sermon, and often flies when Mr. Chi is on screen. When he is on stage, spinning and leaping to the strains of magnificent music, the film soars.
Mao's Last Dancer is an appealing and, by its end, quite moving film.
Jonathan F. Richards,
Bruce Beresford's biopic of Li Cunxin, the Chinese ballet dancer who defected while on a student visa in Houston in 1981, is sometimes the movie equivalent of Oscar Meyer cold cuts. But the dancing is pure caviar.
It's artless, obvious, and at times insultingly exaggerated.
Hollywood has a long history of turning highbrow art into middlebrow mush, and Mao's Last Dancer is just one more kick dancer in that long line.
The most interesting elements of Li's story -- dance, politics, and the politics of dance -- have been dulled from their source material, though not beyond recognition.
Ballet star Li Cunxin's best-selling autobiography gets a curiously tepid treatment in this 2009 adaptation by director Bruce Beresford.
The life at the movie's center speaks to what an artist sometimes gives up for art. If only we experienced that sacrifice, that turmoil, more vividly.
Dallas Morning News:
Ballet dancer Chi Cao does a great job of capturing both Li's chops on the stage and his sincerity and culture shock in the face of American opulence.
Lovely and astounding, Mao's Last Dancer is a modern epic of art and ambition triumphing oppression.
New York Post:
Recounts the true story of Chinese ballet star Li Cunxin's defection to the US in the schmaltziest TV-movie terms imaginable.
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 plie.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
Australian director Bruce Beresford handles the culture-clash aspects of the story with a surprising lack of subtlety.
Globe and Mail:
The themes may soar but everything else -- the dialogue, the performances, the direction, the dancing itself -- is credibly grounded. That makes for a very pleasing contrast. Not many movies bring their uplift down to earth.
Rebecca J. Ritzel,
Many films have portrayed the rigors of ballet training, but none will make viewers wince quite like Mao's Last Dancer.