My kids and I saw Disney’s The Nutcracker and the Four Realms this week, but I’m not sure what to say about it.
I’ve always loved Disney, and my family always enjoys a good fantasy film with impressive effects, costumes and music. The Nutcracker and the Four Realms was entertaining, and my kids liked it. But for me, it lacked strength, feeling too much like a blend of many other movies that have come out in recent years.
The Nutracker and the Four Realms is about Clara (Mackenzie Foy) who on Christmas Eve receives a gift from her deceased mother. It’s an egg-shaped box with a foretelling note “Everything you need is inside,” but she doesn’t have the key to open it. Her godfather Drosselmeyer (Morgan Freeman) leads her to it at his annual holiday party, where she is led to a magical, parallel world of the Four Realms. Here she meets a soldier named Phillip (Jayden Fowora-Knight), a gang of mice, and the regents who preside over three Realms: Land of Snowflakes, Land of Flowers and Land of Sweets. But there’s also a fourth realm, which is odd and ominous one, and ruled by Mother Ginger (Helen Mirren). Clara and Phillip must fight a battle to retrieve the key and save the four realms – a battle passed on to Clara by her highly regarded mother.
It’s important to note that this movie is inspired by the familiar story “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King” by E. T. A. Hoffmann and the Tchaikovsky ballet, but it isn’t the actual story. There’s not a lot of dancing; if anything, it seems forced when there is any. It’s mainly used to tell Clara the story of her mother, and it’s used to bring her closer to her father. In the beginning, Clara’s sad, widowed father firmly asks to dance with both Clara and her sister at a party. Her sister seems charmed, but Clara doesn’t want to, which angers her father. His relationship with his independent daughter Clara was rocky, and there was too much emphasis on dancing together, as if that alone would make things right. The whole thing left a bad taste in my mouth.
There were ballet sequences with Misty Copeland, the first African-American principal dancer in American Ballet Theatre, which was nice to include. In fact, the whole movie was diverse, with several lead African-American characters. However, I felt that it could have had more diverse representation (why no Asians?).
The movie felt like a blend of Alice in Wonderland (girl in wonderland) and The Chronicles of Narnia (the wonderland has snow and a battle). But there were also elements of other movies like The Wizard of Oz and A Wrinkle in Time. The Sugar Plum Fairy from the Land of Sweets was a perky, high-voiced and unpredictable Keira Knightley who was very much like Mrs. Whatsit in A Wrinkle in Time, who was played by an also very perky and unpredictable Reese Witherspoon. But the Sugar Plum Fairy, like most of the other characters, was more odd than charming. Mackenzie Foy, who played Clara, however, did a strong performance.
For parents of young kids? I would suggest not bringing really young kids. There are some dark and scary scenes, including when Clara first meets Mother Ginger in the fourth realm, and then when she meets Mother Ginger’s aggressively playful clown gatekeepers (they were freaky – particularly on a big screen). The movie is otherwise family-friendly and empowering for girls (for the most part – as girls are still dolled up and pretty in this movie).
Overall, the movie was fun to watch, and the story had many unexpected twists and turns (I think it’s the new norm to pack these in nowadays). But for me, it blended in too much with other movies of its genre, to the point of being forgettable.
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