Cliches drag down "Billy Elliot"

Every sport has an inspirational film to call its own. For football has "Rudy." For boxing, it's "Rocky" and its sequels. Hockey has "The Mighty Ducks" and baseball's best is arguably "Field of Dreams." Last but not least, basketball's got "Hoosiers," which ranks up there with "Rocky" as one of the best sports films ever.

"Billy Elliot" now makes it possible to add ballet to the list. Already being labeled as the feel-good hit of year and this year's "The Full Monty," it will, undoubtedly, become a big hit and some think it may even garner a few Academy Award nominations. Tragically, that may be true, but "Billy Elliot" is as contrived and predictable as they come.

Newcomer Jamie Bell, the film's lone bright spot, stars at the title character, who as a boy is supposed to love football, wrestling or boxing, at least according to his stern father. But Billy doesn't have any interest in those sports. He likes to dance.

While boxing at the local gym, Billy witnesses ballet practice. The participants are all young females but that doesn't prevent him from joining in. He lies to his father and begins doing ballet instead of boxing.

Meanwhile, Billy's father and older brother being hit hard by the miners' strike (this is 1984 England). The subplot involving their struggle is unnecessary and distracting, although it gives the characters plenty of opportunities to use the F-word, leading to an R rating for the film.

Billy's teacher (Julie Walters, who does her best with an underwritten and poorly used character) wants him to audition at the Royal Ballet School. Billy is all for this idea, but his father and brother don't exactly share his feelings. This, of course, leads to the inevitable showdown between Billy and his father.

"Billy Elliot" gets the award for most overrated movie of the year. Some critics got down on "Remember the Titans" for being too predictable and sentimental and "Billy Elliot" suffers from the same malaise. Lee Hall's script is full of recycled ideas, cliches and stereotyped characters. It's also painfully melodramatic and just plain unbelievable.

The winning Bell is the only thing that saves the film from total disaster. Unlike him, "Billy Elliot" is a loser.

Grade: D

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