Ty Burr
April 20, 2001 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Billy Elliot

type
Movie
Current Status
In Season
mpaa
R
runtime
110 minutes
Limited Release Date
10/13/00
performer
Jamie Bell, Nicola Blackwell, Jamie Draven, Jean Heywood, Gary Lewis, Julie Walters, Stuart Wells
director
Stephen Daldry
Producers
Tiger Aspect Films
distributor
Universal Focus
author
Lee Hall
genre
Comedy, musical, Drama

We gave it a B-

A scrub-headed 11-year-old boy from the coal pits of northern England follows his dream of becoming a ballet dancer. Coached by a tough-talking old bird, he jetés all the way to a Royal Ballet audition, bringing his uncomprehending dad around through sheer terpsichorean nerve. What’s not to like about Billy Elliot?

Only that the film tries so bleedin’ hard to be liked. While audiences have been to this narrative well before — from The Jazz Singer to FlashdanceBilly Elliot‘s lad-in-tights gimmick and the stroppy ordinariness of its setting are real novelties. It’s a shame, then, that director Stephen Daldry goes for easy laughs, manipulative sentiment, and razzle-dazzle crosscutting, obscuring a subtle, angry, heartfelt title performance by the young Jamie Bell. Inexplicably, Daldry was Oscar-nominated for said overdirection, along with screenwriter Lee Hall and supporting actress Julie Walters (who’s solid if unspectacular). Just as inexplicably, Bell got zip.

Still, Billy Elliot‘s a crowd-pleaser, especially if you don’t mind movies that do the thinking and feeling for you. Do yourself a favor, though: Fight past the in-your-face editing and take a good, hard look at what Bell’s doing. The kid passes the audition, and then some.

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