Disney’s The Nutcracker and the Four Realms is a fantasy adventure film that, while a beautifully shot film with interesting ideas, ultimately comes up short due to its inconsistencies in both story and characters.
Directed by Lasse Hallström and Joe Johnston, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms stars Mackenzie Foy as Clara. As she and her family experience their first Christmas without their mother/wife (Anna Madeley). Clara takes it especially hard. A tinkerer like her mother, Clara feels like the oddball of her family. Her father (Matthew Macfadyen) trying to carry on and spend Christmas like they always have. But Clara can’t help but push away as she misses her mother and feels that nothing can be the same. Attending the Christmas party at the home of her Godfather and mother’s adoptive father, Drosselmeyer (Morgan Freeman), she is led into the Four Realms to find her late mother’s final gift to her.
Within the Four Realms, Clara befriends a nutcracker soldier named Philip (Jayden Fowora-Knight) who teaches her of the world. The three regents of the land, Sugar Plum Fairy (Keira Knightley), Chill (Richard E. Grant) and Hawthorne (Eugenio Derbez) rule and protect the lands against Mother Ginger (Helen Mirren) and the Mouse King. This is a gorgeous looking film, the cinematography is top notch, the costumes are bright and imaginative, and the special effects are truly something to behold. A highlight of this film is how well they incorporate ballet into the film. It harkens back to Fantasia in how beautifully it’s performed.
No matter how beautiful a film looks though, it can’t make up for a lackluster story, uninteresting characters, and inconsistent tone. Yes, all these characters are pretty to look at, but that’s how deep it goes. Clara’s character development is lackluster at best. While understandable that she is hurt over her mother’s death, she has a very selfish attitude about it. You see how important her mother was to the people around her, including her family, but she has a tendency to lash out or blame others. When she finally reaches her turning point as a character, it feels unearned and uninteresting. The villain of the story is similarly uninteresting and the “twist” that happens can be seen a mile away. It feels that there should be so much more here, to the point where the movie is just bland. It’s not bad… just bland and boring.
The tone of the movie is also very inconsistent – to the point where some characters felt like they were from a different movie altogether. We’d go from somewhat serious and grounded to slapstick comedy to super creepy and nothings seems to flow well between them. It made the film feel jumbled and a bit incoherent. By the end of the movie, I wasn’t enjoying it but I didn’t hate it. And that’s the biggest pitfall of the movie. Just being bland.
If the movie sticks around it’ll make for a decent holiday movie. However, with The Grinch coming out soon as the Christmas movie and other big ticket movies on the horizon like Wreck-It-Ralph and Aquaman I don’t see the need to run out and see this movie. This might be a better renting experience than shelling out for the theaters.
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