Movie Review: ‘The Nutcracker And The Four Realms’

Review by Lauryn Angel

Let’s get this out of the way right at the start: Disney’s The Nutcracker and the Four Realms is not the story you know from the E. T. A. Hoffmann story or the ballet by Marius Petipa and Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Certainly, there are characters with the same names and Tchaikovsky’s music provides themes throughout, but if you think you know where the story is going, you don’t. Whether or not that’s a bad thing probably depends on how big a fan you are of the original stories.

Young Clara Stahlbaum (Mackenzie Foy) is a mechanical whiz who spends most of her free time in the attic, building a better mouse trap, much to the consternation of her father (Matthew Macfadyen) and her older sister Louise (Ellie Bamber), but the delight of her brother Fritz (Tom Sweet). It’s the family’s first Christmas without their mother, Marie Stahlbaum (Anna Madeley), and Clara would rather grieve alone than keep up appearances, as her father wants her to. The only person who seems to understand her grief is Herr Drosselmeyer (Morgan Freeman). Drosselmeyer gives Clara a special gift that transports her to another land – the land of the four realms. Here, she meets Shiver (Richard E. Grant), regent of the Land of Snowflakes; Hawthorne (Eugenio Derbez), regent of the Land of Flowers; and Sugar Plum (Kiera Knightley), regent of the Land of Sweets. And, of course, she meets a nutcracker soldier named Captain Philip Hoffmann (Jayden Fowora-Knight). Her new friends tell her that her mother was queen of the land and that she united the four realms, but after she left, Mother Ginger (Helen Mirren), regent of the Land of Amusements, could not be controlled and had to be banished. It’s up to Clara to save them all.

The film is certainly lovely to look at. The sets and costumes are lavish. Many times during the party scenes I found myself wishing I could live in Herr Drosselmeyer’s glorious mansion or envying the beautiful dresses some of the characters wore – Clara’s dresses even had pockets! The film is fun aurally as well, as James Newton Howard weaves Tchaikovsky’s iconic themes into his own score. Performance-wise, Helen Mirren steals the show as Mother Ginger, whereas Kiera Knightly’s sickly-sweet Sugar Plum unfortunately grates, almost more caricature than character. Mackenzie Foy does an admirable job carrying the film as the stalwart Clara, sure to inspire little girls everywhere.

Will you like it? That depends on how devoted you are to the original story. I found it an enjoyable take on the original and good holiday fun for the whole family.

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