I have a history with “The Nutcracker.” I would read the storybook version over and over as a child, I learned to play “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” on piano and participated in my school’s annual rendition of “The Nutcracker.” I famously played the part of Clara’s sassy friend. Finally, I saw the Boston Ballet’s production of “The Nutcracker” just last Christmas, and it exceeded my expectations.
As a result, I had high hopes for “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms.” It is a Disney production after all, and they rarely miss the bar. The cast is phenomenal—Keira Knightley, Helen Mirren, Eugenio Derbez, etc. The set and the effects are also amazing, and the hair, make- up and costume team did a phenomenal job. Sadly, you can tell all of this by just watching the trailer and not much else is worth mentioning.
The story of “The Nutcracker” is changed so much in the film that it is almost unrecognizable, although references to the original remain. For instance, there is no literal nutcracker. Clara (Mackenzie Foy) receives a key from her god- father (Morgan Freeman) instead, which leads her into the four realms. Upon Clara’s reaching the key, it is immediately stolen by a mouse. Clara then meets the “nutcracker,” Captain Philip Hoffman (Jayden Fowora-Knight), a guard in the cold, wintery forest. Together, they narrowly escape Mother Ginger (Helen Mirren) and the Mouse King, and make their way to the other three realms. Clara realizes after meeting the Sugar Plum Fairy (Knightley), Hawthorne (Derbez) and Shiver (Richard E. Grant) that her now-passed mother was the queen, making her the next heir to the throne.
Nothing else in the film makes much sense. The backstory of the four realms is shaky to say the least, and the characters’ motivations are unclear and childish. The characters’ British accents cannot even redeem the cringe-worthy, uninspired dialogue. The overall plot is a bit of a mess, and moments of excitement were few to none. The film’s trailer suggests a big, dark twist that we pretend to not see coming, but it’s really not that twisty at all.
The movie lacks any of the charm that made its predecessors so memorable. For instance, there’s little holiday cheer, and Misty Copeland’s lovely, four-minute ballet routine isn’t quite enough to make up for the lack of visual performative display. Not that a film adaptation requires dancing, but it should at least try
to capture the enchantment and magic of the realms from the original ballet; instead, we only see short, two-second shots of each realm (the Land of the Sweets, the Land of Flowers, the Land of Snowflakes) before the film moves on.
The frustrating part is that this movie had the potential to be so much better. The trailer suggests a chilling, Alice in Wonderland-type darkness. The film falters in execution. Ironically, it engages in “every single movie trope ever,” as one of my friends commented. The end result is half-baked. It also bothered me that the “nutcracker” himself is more of a sidekick and side-piece than anything else—were we meant to forget that he’s the title character?
“The Nutcracker and the Four Realms” is by no means a terrible movie. It’s just not a good one. While Disney is allowed to have a couple mishaps, I’m truly upset that this is one of them. I’m optimistic that one day the perfect cinematic adaptation will come. Until then, I suggest that “The Nutcracker” ballet performance nearest to you will be more worthwhile, and perhaps the perfect solution to get you in the holiday spirit.
Contact Gloria Han at [email protected]