Movie Review: The Nutcracker and the Four Realms
The Disney holiday release, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, hit theaters this weekend with less than stellar opening numbers. The fantasy adventure, which was being marketed as a new holiday classic, is based upon the short story “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King” as well as the corresponding ballet, The Nutcracker. The film was directed by Lasse Hallström and Joe Johnston, and it was written by Ashleigh Powell. The film stars Mackenzie Foy as Clara Stahlbaum and Keira Knightley as The Sugar Plum Fairy. The film also features performances from Jayden Fowora-Knight, Eugenio Derbez, Matthew Macfadyen, Richard E. Grant, Misty Copeland, Helen Mirren, and Morgan Freeman.
The film begins with Clara and her brother, Fritz, playing around in the attack and cleverly catching a mouse. Their fun is interrupted, though, and the two join their father and older sister in another room of the house. Their father gives them Christmas presents from their recently deceased mother, and Clara receives a golden egg with no key. Clara is distressed by the missing key, especially after a note from her mother says that all she needs is inside. Mr. Stahlbaum makes his children attend a Christmas Eve ball at the house of their godfather, a skilled engineer named Drosselmeyer. Drosselmeyer ends up gifting Clara the key as her Christmas present, but before she can retrieve the key in its snowy hiding place, a mouse takes it from her. This event sets Clara on an adventure like no other, where she learns that the Four Realms are in trouble and in need of her help.
While Disney is typically known for their family friendly adventures on screen, I felt like The Nutcracker and the Four Realms did not live up to their usual standard. There was a lot of potential with this film between the source material and a young, clever, female protagonist. However, this film somehow manages to fall a little flat. The story itself was overly simplistic in some ways and a little emotionally detached for a main character who is struggling with grief after the loss of her mother. I felt like the film didn’t fully utilize the emotional moments that accompanies that kind of personal journey. Mackenzie Foy gives a good performance as Clara with what she is given, but I found it frustrating on more than one occasion that this brilliant girl could be so frustratingly slow on the uptake in other moments.
Also, while several have talked about the stunning visuals, I found them to be somewhat middling. Sure, the bright colors and wintry setting of the Four Realms could be beautiful, but more often than not, the visuals seemed to be overdone and too cartoonish at points. Also, the visuals for London itself were a little lacking. This coupled with some incredibly predictable story beats made for a somewhat underwhelming film. I do not want to give away any spoilers, but I found the multiple “twists” in the story to be too heavily implied in the early stages of the film. On the plus side, the costuming for the film did help with the overall effect, and of course, the iconic music is a credit to the film.
I know I sound harsh in my review, but the truth is that The Nutcracker and the Four Realms is neither terrible nor great. It does contain many missteps, but it also has some redemptive moments. We can all be thankful that Keira Knightley’s voice is not nearly as annoying in the film as it is in the trailers, and the movie features a beautiful ballet piece by the extremely talented Misty Copeland. However, I must say that it was a little surprising to find such a lack of dance pieces in a story that is partially based upon a famous ballet. Also, while this film is family friendly, some of the sequences with the mice and the land of amusement are a little disconcerting, and I’m not sure how well children will handle them. Overall, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms might be a holiday film for the family, but in my opinion, it fails to live up to its potential and the typical Disney standard.
Mollie is a film enthusiast, aspiring writer/screenwriter, and a lover of all things Harry Potter, Star Wars, and Doctor Who. She is the co-founder of The Digital Shore (@thedigitalshore) and Above The Line (@atl_movies). You can follow her many adventures through Twitter and Instagram at @mcbeach.