Taking a break from adapting their own animated classics into live-action films, Disney’s newest is The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, inspired by the famous ballet and the short story “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King”. It follows a young girl named Clara, who is transported into a magical world on Christmas Eve.
Unfortunately, this movie suffers predominantly from not having its own identity. The film doesn’t really stand out in any way, instead feeling like a mash-up of elements from its iconic source material, typical Disney fairy tales, and The Wizard of Oz. As such, its theatrical run (which is far too early for it to have legs throughout the holiday season) will be the only life it has. It is so forgettable that it is unlikely anyone will remember it come next Christmas.
Not a whole lot stood out in either direction about this movie. There were only a handful things to like and a few things to really dislike. For the most part, the film was just slightly below average. It isn’t unwatchable, and many of the bad parts are actually quite laughable. Also worth noting is that the movie is somewhat cute as a whole and will likely have appeal to younger/family audiences.
That being said, one part of the film that is absolutely awful is Keira Knightley’s character. She is simply annoying in any possible way you could imagine. Knightley’s performance is ridiculously over-the-top. It is sad that she gives what is perhaps the single worst turn in her career in the same year that she gave one of her best. Not all of it can be faulted on Knightley, though, as the character is poorly-written anyway.
The rest of the cast is mostly fine, but they aren’t given enough to do. The ensemble is filled with talented actors such as Morgan Freeman, Eugenio Derbez, and Richard E. Grant, who are only given a few scenes each. Helen Mirren is given a bit more to do, and does elevate the movie by a bit, but it would have been nice if there were even more of her. Mackenzie Foy’s performance is also fine, but doesn’t stand out.
Visually, the film is a bit of a mixed bag. The physical sets (when they were actual sets) are undeniably impressive. Their scale is grand and there are a lot of intricate details. This helps give the movie its Christmas spirit. However, when the visuals were reliant on CGI, they looked artificial and cartoon-like. Because of this, the real world in the film was more awe-inspiring than the fantasy world, which is a shame.
However, rightfully the best part of the movie is the score. Being based on a famous Tchaikovsky ballet, the composer, James Newton Howard, had quite a bit with which he could work, and he certainly delivered. Throughout the film, you can pick up on bits and pieces of the classic melodies, with added twists.
Overall, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms wasn’t awful, but it is definitely one of Disney’s infrequent misfires. That being said, it may be a good way to get your younger kids in the holiday spirit.
The Nutcracker and the Four Realms opens in theaters November 2.