DIR: Lasse Hallström, Joe Johnston • WRI: Ashleigh Powell • DOP: Linus Sandgren • ED: Stuart Levy • DES: Guy Hendrix Dyas • PRO: Larry Franco, Lindy Goldstein, Mark Gordon • MUS: James Newton Howard • CAST: Mackenzie Foy, Keira Knightley, Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren
The Nutcracker and the Four Realms borrows its style from other Disney films, namely Beauty and the Beast (the live-action version) and The Santa Clause 2. Both of which were better films than this one. It opens on a family, dealing with the loss of the matriarch, the father (Matthew Macfadyen) not quite knowing how to manage three children. Macfadyen is great playing the awkward, lost, stiff-upper-lip father, his expressions alone tell a story; it’s a pity he wasn’t in the film more.
Clara (Mackenzie Foy) is the most difficult; fiery, quick-witted, and utterly self-absorbed, she challenges her father in a way her sister and brother do not. On Christmas Eve, Clara happens upon an unknown world, one which she just happens to be the princess of. Her mother left her a gift that would lead her to a place where she could finally come of age.
The world is straight out of a fairy tale. There are four realms (the land of sweets, flowers, snowflakes, and amusements, or the fourth realm) and the first three are at a kind of ‘Cold War’ with the fourth. Clara is the chosen saviour to try bring peace to all four realms, and attempt to save them from the looming villain, Mother Ginger (the ruler of the land of amusements) played by Helen Mirren, who is severely underused. Keira Knightley is effective, and there’s an interesting twist to her character, Sugarplum. Clara is quite selfish, and for the most part does not take full responsibility for her actions. It feels like Disney are trying to give us a modern, decisive princess, but instead deliver a spoilt child.
Unfortunately, most characters are lacking in any real depth, and any of the characters who showed a hint of real promise are not on screen enough. It comes across as too simple and childish; don’t get me wrong, I generally love Disney films, be they live-action or animated, but The Nutcracker just didn’t do it for me.
However, despite the story’s lack, the score was beautiful. The use of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker tune, and the interweaving of ballet into the story was very clever; always giving a nod towards the inspiration. The costumes were elaborate and ornate, particularly Clara’s ‘soldier’ outfit, and they matched the overall style of the film. The CGI worked well, and the colours of the film lent to its Christmas feel.
Children will love The Nutcracker for its visual spectacle and the parable-like lesson that can be learned from it (looks can be deceiving), but for the adults, there isn’t really much here.
This is not a Disney film I would rush to the cinema to see.