Movie Review: The Nutcracker’s Four Realms are No Fun

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms
Movie Review: The Nutcracker’s Four Realms are No Fun
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About the Author

Tyler Collins

Tyler Collins

Tyler Collins is a thespian and performer who has worked with theatre, film, and TV across Ontario. He comes from Campbellton, NB, and has lived in North Oakville over 20 years. He is a graduate of Journalism from Sheridan College. Twitter: @MrTyCollins

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You’d think with Disney’s history of large scale fantasy they would know how to make The Nutcracker and the Four Realms. Nope. All the charm and elegance has been sucked out of this confusing story and left with no dance shoes to stand on.

Then again, their record of large-budget fantasies has been inconsistent the last few years. Remember the tediously boring A Wrinkle in Time back in March? The Nutcracker is no better. Sure it looks nice. But detailed doesn’t mean good looking.

Most of the story is a new fairy tale inspired by the famous Nutcracker ballet. The Christmas Eve after Clara (Mackenzie Foy) has lost her mother, she discovers a magic kingdom of toys. When she learns her mother built it, she must travel to save the land from Mother Ginger (Helen Mirren.)

The only compelling aspect of Ashleigh Powell’s sluggish script is the ingenuity of Clara. It’s great to see Clara’s intelligence and her reliability as an inventor valued above her social status or looks. The trouble is we never get to see her truly utilize her gifts.

Photo: Buena Vista Pictures

For example, an early scene shows her fixing a toy with dancing swans. Instead of showing the repairs, she utters nonsense engineering terms. There’s a montage of her simply sticking her hands in the machine, and voila! It’s fixed.

It will surprise most audiences to know this is a war movie. For most families, that isn’t the holiday adventure they’re expecting. Though a lack of specificity is the hallmark trait of this Nutcracker. From the corny dialogue to the cluttered (albeit pretty) production design, it’s unsettling from beginning to end.

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Detailed fantasy doesn’t mean it’s good

There are overused fantasy tropes everywhere. Clara’s announcement “I’m from London” is met with the predictable “What’s London?” from a resident of the four realms. The saccharine script isn’t helped by an ensemble of misdirected actors.

Foy and Morgan Freeman’s cameo appear less like characters and more like celebrities playing themselves in overdecorated costumes. They act and speak like themselves, too. Keira Knightley’s role as the Sugar Plum Fairy is venially unique, until she gives up halfway through with some extreme acting choices.

Clara’s father (Matthew Macfayden) may be the most annoyingly stoic character of the year. His casual, nonsensical cruelty makes him immensely unlikeable. It’s an off-putting performance that goes too far.

The film’s score, adapted from the namesake ballet, is the best part of the movie. Sadly, it’s offset by a weak production. The opening scene of an owl flying over London, for instance, is a mess. It’s a continuous shot of generic buildings and astoundingly bad CGI animation. How does a movie that cost $130 million look this cheap?

With Halloween only a few days behind us, it’s hilariously early for a holiday spectacular at the movies. There’s going to be lots of great options over the next two months. No need to get started early with this cracked nut of a night out.

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms
1 1/2 out of 4 stars

PG, 1hr 39mins. Fantasy Adventure.
Directed by Lasse Hallström and Joe Johnston.
Starring Mackenzie Foy, Keira Knightley, Jayden Forowa-Knight, Morgan Freeman and Helen Mirren.
Now Playing at Film.Ca Cinemas, Cineplex Winston Churchill and Cineplex Oakville & VIP.

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