WALT DISNEY STUDIOS MOTION PICTURES (2018)
Directors: Lasse Hallström / Joe Johnston
Starring: Mackenzie Foy, Keira Knightley, Helen Mirren, Eugenio Derbez, Matthew Macfadyen, Richard E. Grant, Morgan Freeman, Jayden Fowora-Knight
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away came the stories of The Nutcracker and The Mouse King and The Nutcracker, and in a galaxy closer to home, The Mouse House took the stories and created The Nutcracker and the Four Realms. Complete with two directors and a very solid looking cast, the stage was set for another Disney takeover of the festive season. The problem is that too much sparkle and pizzazz can sometimes mask a story lacking in just that – spark.
It’s a snowy Christmas Eve in Victorian-era London and one family, in particular, isn’t feeling overly festive. Since the passing of her mother, Clara (Foy) has struggled to come to terms with life without her and it's especially difficult at this time of year. As per her dying wishes, the family receives one present each to open before the big day and Clara receives a strange egg-shaped gift complete with a lock but no key. Upon trying to open the egg, and with the help of her godfather Drosselmeyer (Freeman), she finds herself transported to a magical world known as the Fourth Realm. There she meets lonely nutcracker Captain Philip Hoffman (Fowora-Knight), and the regents of three of the Realms – including The Sugar Plum Fairy (Knightley). Not all is rosy, however, as the Regent of the Fourth Real, Mother Ginger (Mirren), is waging war on the other Realms and threatens to destroy them all. With the help of Captain Hoffman, and a helpful mouse, Clara must save the Realms and her mother’s legacy before Christmas Day.
Oh, Nutcracker. You’re so glittery and magical. Why couldn’t you have been better??
The movies main issue is indeed the fact that in its quest to achieve a magical status, it loses sight of the story itself and ends up being rather bland and unengaging – which isn’t particularly Disney-like, but that’s how it is here. It’s sugary, sweet and all things nice, but there’s just something missing. Mackenzie Foy, however, isn’t one of the issues. She’s graceful and elegant with enough backbone to carry the story on her shoulders, whilst Newcomer Jayden Fowora-Knight is charming and great to watch also. Keira Knightley, on the other hand, must have been watching re-runs of Blackadder II and Miranda Richardson’s Queen because, bloody hell, the similarities are clear. She is clearly having a blast in the role but the character…isn’t the greatest. Helen Mirren and Morgan Freeman are relegated very much to supporting characters, though hearing Freeman say “Christmas Eve will be a magical night” is all I need to hear every festive season.
For its relatively tight runtime, there’s no real urgency throughout. Everything feels a bit too pedestrian and not even a delightful turn from Misty Copeland halfway through the movie can perk things up. There’s no denying that Nutcracker looks great. Victorian London shimmers and glows like those warm, nostalgic-looking Christmas cards and the Fourth Realm does possess a certain magic in the snow. The Realms themselves each carry their own individualism, though younger kids (and some adults…) will find the strange, ninja clowns a bit frightening. It’s just frustrating that the story elements don’t match the quality of the visuals – even the climactic third act feels a bit too limp to be successful. Another slightly disappointing aspect was the score from James Newton Howard. There’s a hint of autopilot to the music and a large nod to Hedwig’s Theme in one of the recurring motifs.
For all of its sparkly, sweety goodness, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms feels too soulless to really make an impression. Whilst Foy and Fowora-Knight are fun and the majority of visuals are nice to look at, everything else is disappointing in comparison and this is certainly no Christmas cracker. It is better than A Wrinkle in Time, however.
November 5th 2018