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The Nutcracker and the Four Realms (A Movie Review)

Updated: Mar 4, 2020

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms


Starring Mackenzie Foy, Keira Knightley, Eugenio Derbez, Matthew Macfadyen, Richard E. Grant, Misty Copeland, Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman, Tom Sweet, Meera Syal, Ellie Bamber, Nick Mohammed, Charles Streeter, Jayden Fowora-Knight, Omid Djalili, Max Westwell, Aaron Smyth, Sergei Polunin, Anna Madeley and Prince the Horse.

Screenplay by Ashleigh Powell and Tom McCarthy.

Directed by Lasse Hallström & Joe Johnston.

Distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. 99 minutes. Rated PG.

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms is a visually stunning film with a predictable plot, irritating villains, and just a bit of ballet. It felt like a foray into the world of dance for kids whose attention spans won’t allow them to sit through the already kid-captivating original Nutcracker, with villains that feel just a bit too mean, angry, and spiteful for what I believe to be the six to ten-year-old target audience.

In the few minutes that we are granted some actual ballet, the film delights with lead dancing by prima ballerina Misty Copeland. Frankly, if the goal was to bring the story of The Nutcracker to a new youthful audience, they would have done the story a better service by filming the ballet with Misty Copeland in its original form, making the ballet even more accessible to a new audience on the big screen.

Instead, they’ve created an alternative version where Clara (played by nearly 18-year-old Mackenzie Foy, best known for her role as Renesmee Cullen in The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn-Part 2) has recently lost her mother. Her family, including father, sister, and brother are trying to move past their grief.

The film begins the night of The Nutcracker Ballet’s famous Christmas party, and the family attends as they are expected to. When the children are given their gifts, Clara follows her “gift ribbon path” into a snowy land, a land where she discovers that her mother was Queen of The Four Realms. Clara enlists the help of The Nutcracker soldier guarding the bridge to the Realms – Captain Phillip (played by Jayden Fowora-Knight). Eventually, Clara realizes that there is a war at hand, and as princess, she holds the responsibility to heal the land.

Foy plays a beautiful Clara with a STEM twist for 2018 – impressive with her Rube Goldberg-esque mousetrap and lock-breaking sensibilities. She was fun to watch at the start but was surprisingly slow to figure out the villain, long after the audience has caught on. Once she realizes that as a Princess she must be obeyed, she barks out a few orders, some followed (by Captain Philip, noble throughout) and some not.

The star-studded cast includes Helen Mirren as the misunderstood Mother Ginger, who rules over the land of amusements.  She is guarded by a band of creepy clowns built like Russian Nesting Dolls. (I know that clowns get a bad rap, but hasn’t Disney figured out that keeping them scary is not helping the clown image!?)

Morgan Freeman plays Drosselmeyer – Clara’s godfather, who helped to raise her mother, Marie. Drosselmeyer owns the house with the classic Nutcracker Ballet giant Christmas tree and is portrayed beautifully in the film – a nod to the original ballet.

Both Mirren and Freeman are fun to see but are unremarkable and underutilized in their roles.

Keira Knightley has the meatiest role as The Sugar Plum Fairy, complete with cotton candy wisp hair. The film follows through on the cotton candy effect when in a distracted moment, Sugar Plum snacks on her hair! Although visually she is fun, her overly nasal, whiny character voice choice leaves a lot to be desired.

Visually, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms is magical. The various landscape sets – both in the real-world locations and in the Four Realms – were filled with colors and creative details.  The billowy costumes were super dreamy. I think I even caught a glimpse of pockets in clever Clara’s purple party dress.

If only they put as much attention to detail into the story as they did the aesthetics, we would be treated to a better film. Instead, we get eye candy, uninspiring themes, and not much else.  Well, we do get to see Misty Copeland dance. Be sure to stay seated at the end and watch some additional Copeland ballet!

Bonnie Paul

Copyright ©2018 All rights reserved. Posted: November 2, 2018.

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