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Published On: Fri, Nov 2nd, 2018

REVIEW: ‘The Nutcracker and the Four Realms’ is more ‘Wizard of Oz’ than classical ballet

With Halloween just barely in our rear-view mirror, it’s time to jump headfirst into the holiday season.  And how better to do it than to combine a little Disney magic and the beautiful sets of a period piece into a new fantasy film with a unique twist on the timeless classic?  

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms opens November 2, 2018 in theaters across the country and introduces children to the idea of the Nutcracker in a much more interesting and less costly way than by taking them to the ballet.  As is the case with so many new versions of classic stories, this production has elements of the original, but the film-makers mixed everything up, flipped it upside down, and presented it in a far less scary manner for younger audiences.  Our young protagonist Clara is no longer being tormented by a horrible nightmare on Christmas Eve where her new toy becomes her hero. Instead, Clara finds a portal into a different world like the children passing through the armoire in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.  She is quickly launched on a quest to recover a unique key so she can end a war and reunite the four realms.  

As in more recent Disney films, Clara (Mackenzie Foy) is the heroine of the story instead of a damsel in distress waiting for a male figure to save her.  While some may think that “girl power” is going too far in today’s films and pushing an angle of female superiority, Nutcracker presents this concept in a more gender-equal perspective than you might expect.  There’s no big strong man to save her, but there are other characters from the original story there to support her, help her on her quest, and protect her as much as she’s trying to protect them.

Think of the original Wizard of Oz film where Dorothy is her own hero although she is joined by four males who work with her as a team.  I don’t think anyone would ever think that Dorothy truly considered herself superior to any of her friends.  Clara’s relationship with her supporting characters works the same way.

The star of the film is definitely a combination of the set and costume designs.  These elements come together in a way that only Disney can do it to create a beautiful new fantasy world.  Nutcracker is a feast for the eyes of all audiences and probably the only reason to pass on a comfortable evening at home and see this one on the big screen.  The realms themselves are all based on elements of the original ballet and are fantastic lands of flowers, sweets, snowflakes, and games. The artistry of the costumes and set designs is reminiscent of the recent Wonderland films, but in a far less creepy-crazy-unbalancing way.  

Oh….and there are some big stars in it like Morgan Freeman, Keira Knightley, and Helen Mirren, but even they take a back seat to the majesty of the production’s visual appeal.

Musically, the film wasn’t what I expected at all.  I had hoped I would hear more of the familiar melodies of Tchaikovsky’s famous score to expose younger audiences to such beautiful music, but I only noticed tiny snippets of it in a few scenes.  Not that the music wasn’t good, but I had hoped for something less altered.

One last point to touch on is what a good “transition film” this is for children since it takes them from a world of mainly animated films targeted for them to a magical live action production.  The story moves along quite quickly and the scenes frequently change dramatically which seems to cater to shorter attention spans. With a running time of 1 hour 40 minutes, these short scenes with quick transitions should keep most children engaged in the story.  Children should enjoy it and parents will walk out talking about how beautiful it was, but I don’t expect that this film will become part of holiday traditions in many homes.

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms earns 3 out of 5 stars

Review by Debbie Sage

About the Author

- Outside contributors to the Dispatch are always welcome to offer their unique voices, contradictory opinions or presentation of information not included on the site.

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