Mao’s Last Dancer

Rated 3.0

Come to think of it, this is just the movie you’d expect from having ballet star Cunxin Li’s memoir adapted by the writer of Shine (Jan Sardi) for the director of Driving Miss Daisy (Bruce Beresford). Concentrating less on dance than on the inherent drama of Li’s defection from China to the United States in 1981, it is at least sensitive enough to maintain that hackneyed effusions transcend all political differences. It’s an equal-opportunity reductionism, applied to Texans and provincial Chinese alike. But not all is lost: As the adult Li, Chi Cao inhabits his space very elegantly, and mitigates the movie’s untrusting tendency to infuse its choreography with disruptive slo-mo accents. Also, he has the advantage of Joan Chen playing his mother, Bruce Greenwood as his American teacher and Kyle MacLachlan as his lawyer.