When it comes to Christmas there have been many stories to capture the festive season on a celluloid format. From A Christmas Carol to It’s a Wonderful Life the spirit of Christmas has been interpreted in a number of ways in the entertainment world. Among the notable tales is none other than The Nutcracker. The story by ETA Hoffman plays a pivotal role for the holiday season as the tale is constantly told in numerous ways such as Marius Petipa’s iconic ballet and the numerous film adaptations. Now the classic story comes to life yet again in the new Disney film-The Nutcracker and the Four Realms. Directed by Lasse Hallstrom, as well as Joe Johnston, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms adapts both Hoffman’s short story and the ballet to create a new take on the Christmas fairy tale. At first glance the new blockbuster looked like an interesting, albeit eccentric, take on the classic story which was more than enough to peak my curiosity. After seeing the new adaptation I must say that The Nutcracker and the Four Realms is a less than magical experience for the Holiday season.
The story centers on Clara (Mackenzie Foy) who finds herself in a magical world created by her mother. There Clara is joined by the Nutcracker Phillip (Jayden Fowora-Knight) and together to two must protect the kingdoms from the mysterious Mother Ginger (Helen Mirren) as well as find the missing key that could affect the sanctity of the Four Realms.Going into this movie I expected the plot to be simplistic and The Nutcracker and the Four Realms more than exceeded my expectations as there was very little to this plot. When it came to its sense of adventure the plot featured a journey with a minimal impact. Despite featuring “The Four Realms” in its title the movie focused primarily on just two realms, which was a shame as there were plenty of elements that could have been further explored. The story’s execution was so blatant that I could tell how things would play out four realms away, and while a predictable plot is not always a bad thing this one however suffered due to its lack of imagination. Yet the biggest grievance that I had with this plot was how loosely based it was on the Nutcracker story. I am all for different interpretations as, if done well, it can bring something new to the source material. Yet in the case of The Four Realms the contrast was stagnant to the point where it felt less like an adaption of The Nutcracker and more like a story seen in a typical fantasy film.
Despite its star power the cast to The Nutcracker and the Four Realms was a lacking ensemble. The primary issue has to do with the characterization of Clara. While Clara having the most development was expected, and Mackenzie Foy was fairly solid in her performance, the character herself did not make for a strong protagonist. This had to do with her inconsistent progression as Clara deals with the grief of losing her mother while questioning her own merit, and these dilemmas just conflicted with each other opposed to giving the young hero more layers. Fortunately the rest of the cast did not have to deal with this problem-because there was very little to the other characters. This was evident in Captain Phillip as, despite being the film’s Nutcracker, he had a minimal presence and his connection with Clara was barely explained and hardly explored upon. The rest of the characters were just there to the point where even the likes of Helen Mirren and Morgan Freeman, who played Dosselmeyer, had little to offer the film. The only character/performance that caught my undivided attention was Keira Knightley as the Sugar Plum Fairy. Knightley’s performance was vibrant to the point where she commanded every scene she was in and them all the more enjoyable. Another highlight to the cast was the mouse prince who surprisingly had a lot of character for a cgi rodent.
When it came to likes of effects and other technical aspects, The Nutcracker and the Fours Realms definitely strived in this area. The effects were alright as some of the visuals looked better than others. However I was more impressed with the movie’s sets than anything else. From their variety in color to their practicality, the sets did their job in creating a fantasy world rich with festivity. The cinematography was also a highlight to some degree. The cinematography was not shy using a variety of colors and the camerawork was not too bad; particularly in the film’s ballet sequence which felt like an actual production and even gave a nod to Disney’s Fantasia. The score was also an effective factor for the movie as the compositions by James Newton Howard were fitting for both the fantasy aspects and the holiday nature behind the Nutcracker. Although, and this is more of nitpick than anything else, the movie could have utilized the iconic music of the ballet a little better than what was heard in this new adaptation.
Needless to say The Nutcracker and the Four Realms is not the event of the Holiday Season. When it came down to it the adaptation suffers from inconsistent direction as well as a lacking execution in the likes of story and characters. However despite its many flaws I cannot say the new Disney film is a task to endure. The movie has it share of moments as well as a spark of creativity that made the film tolerable. The Nutcracker and the Four Realms was practicality harmless and a little entertaining, but the potential this movie had was squandered to the point where this holiday fantasy film had very little magic to it.