Mixed or average reviews - based on 23 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 11 out of 23
  2. Negative: 1 out of 23
  1. 100
    This first-cabin director returns to top form, with this revelatory film his best in years. More than that, Mao's Last Dancer is a masterpiece.
  2. Will appeal to upscale adult audiences with its mix of gorgeous Chinese locations, splendid dance sequences and compelling personal story.
  3. Reviewed by: Ella Taylor
    Likable as this full-hearted and uplifting movie is, though, I wish that Beresford had not fallen into the familiar trap of dividing Chinese characters into two roles: brutal, ideology-spouting apparatchiki; or parable-spouting, salt-of-the-earth proletarians, the better to show off by contrast the open society of the West.
  4. This is a handsome, conventional biopic, as fluent and polished as its subject matter.
  5. The delight of this film isn't so much in the tale as the telling.
  6. Reviewed by: Richard Kuipers
    The story lights up when world-class performer Chi Cao leaps about as the adult Li, but is marred by lumpy melodrama when the music stops.
  7. 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.
  8. This based-on-real-life tale of artistic aspirations and international politics is packed with more corn than an Iowa silo.
  9. 63
    The ballets are badly filmed. The camera shoots them often from the point of view of the patrons in the auditorium or in a way that dishonors the choreography.
  10. 63
    Chairman Mao wouldn't necessarily approve. And even today, China won't be showing Mao's Last Dancer.
  11. Three actors portray the clumsy-but-limber Li in the years of his arduous training, when he is pulled between a teacher who's inspired by Mao and another who's inspired by bootleg videos of Mikhail Baryshnikov.
  12. Reviewed by: Peter Brunette
    Like most films in this underdog genre, the emotional manipulation of the audience is constant and obvious.
  13. 60
    The degree to which they are willing to share their bodies with the world, seeming to reach out for it with each impossible extension, drawing it in with every reeling arabesque, suggests a desire for engagement that is visceral, human, and true in all the ways this film is not.
  14. It's hard to know whether to take it to task as a film critic or as a dance critic. It isn't that it fails on either level - it's a serviceable movie - but it neither attempts nor achieves much of value.
  15. Reviewed by: Sheri Linden
    Director Bruce Beresford ("Driving Miss Daisy") knows how to tug heartstrings but as he moves the inspirational material toward its tear-jerker finale, it's often hampered by awkward melodrama.
  16. A dramatic true story has been made into a diffident biopic.
  17. 50
    There are nice cameos by Joan Chen and Kyle MacLachlan as Li's mother and lawyer, respectively.
  18. 50
    While this is hardly "Breaker Morant," it's nowhere near as mawkish or cloying as it could have been.
  19. Reviewed by: Brian Miller
    Based on the memoirs of Li Cunxin, Mao's Last Dancer means well, but it stumbles between genres.
  20. 50
    It's artless, obvious, and at times insultingly exaggerated. And yet the real-life story of Chinese ballet dancer Li Cunxin, based on his autobiography, is often dramatic enough to win its way past the silly trappings.
  21. 40
    The performance sequences feel intimate and exhilarating-but in the end, Li's journey is compelling only when he's onstage.
  22. 30
    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.
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 10 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 5 out of 6
  2. Negative: 0 out of 6
  1. Oct 3, 2010
    This beautiful film is based on true events. A young Chinese boy is selected to be trained as a ballet dancer. He travels to the US as an adult and becomes a star. When he decides he wants to stay here, it ignites an international furor. The performances are all solid and the story (although somewhat predictable) is told with skill and emotion by director Bruce Beresford. NOTE: I actually saw this in Sweden, but had a translator to help with the Chinese parts. Full Review »
  2. PHL
    Sep 16, 2010
    I agree with Rex Reed. This is a masterpiece. I do not believe the audience is being manipulated. After all, this is based on a true story. It's a moving story and depicts the triumph of art, freedom and knowing your own heart. Chi Cao is magnificant. Full Review »
  3. Nov 9, 2011
    A well-made, well-acted and interesting adaptation of the true story that is just as good as the book.