Performing a clumsy historical-uplift routine, Mao’s Last Dancer recounts the true-life saga of Li Cunxin (Chi Cao), who in the ‘70s was forcibly trained by his native China’s communist regime to become a ballet dancer, and whose life was forever changed by an opportunity in 1981 to study dance for three months in Houston, Texas under the tutelage of Ben Stevenson (Bruce Greenwood). In depicting Li’s inspiring rise from poverty to world-renowned artist, director Bruce Beresford (Driving Ms. Daisy) uses every literal-minded trick in the book, from heavy-handed match-cuts to laughable musical cues (denoting loss of virginity with “Super Freak”? Really?) to lamely visualizing the parables being verbally recounted by characters. Worse, his staging of Li’s cross-cultural assimilation – juxtaposed with his Maoist childhood brainwashing – is filled with an egregious number of goofy wide-eyed reaction shots. Li’s recitals are shot with reasonable lucidity, yet impressive dancing ultimately can’t overshadow the film’s woefully creaky and corny drama.