Posted by

Allen Adams Allen Adams
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

edge staff writer


‘The Nutcracker and the Four Realms’ uninspired

Rate this item
(3 votes)

As someone who spends a lot of time in movie theaters, I’ve seen a LOT of trailers. I don’t have a problem with that – I’ve always been a fan of previews. These days, my affinity is even greater because I know that odds are good that I’ll be seeing these movies, so it’s nice to know what’s coming.

However, every once in a while, I’ll see a trailer that simply mystifies me. It’s not that I think the movie will be good or bad (though it tends toward the latter) so much as I wonder how the film in question ever came to exist at all.

I got that feeling the first time I saw the trailer for Disney’s “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms.” Like – was this a gritty reboot of the classic holiday ballet? What’s the deal with the four realms? Why is Morgan Freeman here? SO MANY QUESTIONS.

Alas, the answers I got were less than satisfying – superficially attractive, yes, but ultimately empty. It’s a beautifully wrapped gift with nothing inside, its connections to the supposed source material tenuous at best (you have to love a good “suggested by” caveat).

Clara Stahlbaum (Mackenzie Foy, “The Little Prince”) is a bright young girl living in vaguely old-timey London. Her mother has passed away, leaving Clara and her siblings Louise (Ellie Bamber, “High Resolution”) and Fritz (Tom Sweet, “Ashes in the Snow”) in the staid care of their upright, uptight father (Matthew Macfadyen, TV’s “Succession”).

On Christmas Eve, Mr. Stahlbaum gives his children gifts intended for them from their mother. Clara’s is an intricate gilded egg, one that opens but is locked shut … and the key is nowhere to be found.

Later, the Stahlbaum clan attends a holiday party at the home of the children’s godfather, a wealthy, gifted engineer called Drosselmeyer (Morgan Freeman, “Just Getting Started”). Clara seeks Drosselmeyer’s help in opening her gift, which leads to him giving her another gift courtesy of the girl’s mother.

And away we go.

Via routes never adequately explained, Clara winds up in the Four Realms, where she finds the key she seeks, only to have it stolen away by a mouse. In the course of her pursuit, she encounters a nutcracker soldier named Phillip (Jayden Fowora-Knight, “Ready Player One”) and learns that her mother was actually a queen.

She meets the regents of the Realms: Hawthorne (Eugenio Derbez, “Overboard”) of the Land of Flowers; Shiver (Richard E. Grant, “The Hitman’s Bodyguard”) of the Land of Snowflakes; and the Sugar Plum Fairy (Keira Knightley, “Colette”) of the Land of Sweets. These three seek Clara’s help to reactivate the machine that her mother used to bring all of them to life with the power of lasers or something (seriously, this movie makes NO SENSE); of course, it’s the same key that opens the egg.

To get it, Clara and Phillip will have to venture into the Fourth Realm – the Land of Amusements – and take on the exiled Madame Ginger (Helen Mirren, “Winchester”) and her army of rodent servants. However, Madame Ginger has her own agenda; it soon becomes clear that the picture is a lot more complicated than Clara ever would have guessed.

Or something. Honestly, there are stretches of this movie where it’s tough to know what’s happening at all. Just big chunks of pretty emptiness. You wouldn’t think it possible to stuff this much nonsense into 100 minutes, but there you go.

Seriously, other than some weak nods to a few characters, “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms” is just trading in on a beloved holiday name, throwing a bunch of stuff against the wall and seeing what sticks (as well as hoping you won’t notice). Again, it’s a pretty good-looking movie, but there’s no real story to speak of and there’s precious little dancing. You know, the whole reason you care about “The Nutcracker” in the first place?

(It’s worth noting that the one extended dance sequence in the film – featuring ballerina Misty Copeland – is actually quite stunning to watch. It’s easily the best part of the entire film and it isn’t close. A few more of those and this movie might have been salvageable.)

Apparently, the film was delayed thanks to some late reshoots – after Lasse Hallstrom put together the lion’s share of Ashleigh Powell’s screenplay, Joe Johnston came in direct some new stuff written up by Tom McCarthy – and it shows. The film is sloppy and meandering, stitched together out of seemingly disparate parts and never really settling on a tone.

The performances are uniformly meh. Foy is fine, albeit weirdly blank. Mirren is good as always, despite a woefully underwritten part. Knightley does some scenery-chewing and has fun doing it. Everyone else simply … is. There’s no soul to any of it, leaving the whole proceedings feeling cold despite a palate dripping with ostensible warmth.

There are a lot of problems with “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms,” but perhaps the biggest is its inherent inessentiality. There’s literally no reason for this movie to exist. They lifted a few characters from a well-known work and constructed something new and unnecessary around them. It’s a dull slog of a movie; aside from a few scattered moments, there’s just nothing worthwhile to be had here.

[1.5 out of 5]


The Maine Edge. All rights reserved. Privacy policy. Terms & Conditions.

Website CMS and Development by Links Online Marketing, LLC, Bangor Maine