Mao's Last Dancer 2009

Critics score:
55 / 100

Reviews provided by RottenTomatoes

Roger Moore, Orlando Sentinel: 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. Read more

Mike Hale, 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. Read more

Eric Hynes, Time Out: The performance sequences feel intimate and exhilarating -- but in the end, Li's journey is compelling only when he's onstage. Read more

Joe Morgenstern, 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. Read more

Moira MacDonald, Seattle Times: Mao's Last Dancer is an appealing and, by its end, quite moving film. Read more

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. Read more

Tasha Robinson, AV Club: It's artless, obvious, and at times insultingly exaggerated. Read more

Richard Nilsen, Arizona Republic: 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. Read more

Wesley Morris, Boston Globe: 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. Read more

Andrea Gronvall, Chicago Reader: Ballet star Li Cunxin's best-selling autobiography gets a curiously tepid treatment in this 2009 adaptation by director Bruce Beresford. Read more

Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune: 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. Read more

Peter Rainer, Christian Science Monitor: Too often, though, the film plods along on the ground. Read more

Manuel Mendoza, 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. Read more

Tom Long, Detroit News: Lovely and astounding, Mao's Last Dancer is a modern epic of art and ambition triumphing oppression. Read more

Rene Rodriguez, Miami Herald: Read more

Lou Lumenick, 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. Read more

Rex Reed, New York Observer: Mao's Last Dancer is a masterpiece. Read more

Steven Rea, Philadelphia Inquirer: 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. Read more

Joe Williams, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Australian director Bruce Beresford handles the culture-clash aspects of the story with a surprising lack of subtlety. Read more

Rick Groen, 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. Read more

Bruce Demara, Toronto Star: Ballet has never looked so darn sumptuous and appealing. Read more

Richard Kuipers, Variety: Read more

Brian Miller, Village Voice: Mao's Last Dancer means well, but it stumbles between genres. Read more

Rebecca J. Ritzel, Washington Post: Many films have portrayed the rigors of ballet training, but none will make viewers wince quite like Mao's Last Dancer. Read more