REVIEW: “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms” Is As Forgettable As It Looks
I am going to sum up right away how I felt about The Nutcracker and the Four Realms. It could have been better, but it could have been worse, and I mean a whole lot worse. If you are planning on seeing the movie, it’s best to go in with low expectations, and in the end you just might say, it wasn’t that bad. But that’s not why we go to see movies. We want to go and spend about 2 hours and be entertained and walk away with a good experience. You probably wont get that from The Nutcracker and the Four Realms.
The Nutcracker and the Four Realms tells the story of Clara, who, along with her family, is mourning the loss of her mother. The family is trying to carry on with the family Christmas tradition, but it is not easy for them, especially for Clara. Clara learns that her mother has left her a present that is locked and can only be opened without a special key. Clara is a very intelligent and resourceful girl and it isn’t long before Clara learns where the key is, but she has to journey to the land of the four realms in order to retrieve it. Along the way, she meets up with a soldier, or Nutcracker, who acts as her companion and protector throughout her adventure. Three of the four realms are at war with the remaining realm and Clara learns that only she is destined to bring peace throughout the four realms.
The absolute biggest problem with this movie is it lacks originality. Now you can say that it’s a retelling of the classic Nutcracker story that has been told many times before. That is barely true, because if you go in and expect to see anything that resembles the ballet from The Nutcracker, you are going to be disappointed. This movie basically rips off so many movies, in fact that can even be kind of entertaining, guessing which parts rip of which movies. I would say that it mostly rips off Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, but coming in a close second is The Chronicles of Narnia. And there is also some Wizard of Oz, or more likely Oz the Great and Powerful. It’s like the writers and director of this movie really loved those movies and wanted to make their own version of them. Which makes me wonder: why didn’t Disney just do this movie with characters from Burton’s Alice movies? It would have made more sense and it probably would have done a decent job at the box office. I really doubt that The Nutcracker and the Four Realms is going to make its budget back.
The critics seem to be really going to town on this movie. Currently it has a rating of 31% over at Rotten Tomatoes and an average of 38 over at Metacritic. I do think that a lot of the critics are just jumping on the hate band wagon. It’s not great, but it’s not awful either. Let’s just say that for me, if I had to see this or Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them again, I would easily choose The Nutcracker.
There is definitely some good in the movie. First and foremost are the costumes and the designs of the world. Whoever was behind those aspects of the film did a fantastic job. Then there is the acting. I would say the acting is fine, especially by the lead actress who plays Clara, Mackenzie Foy. I was really surprised to learn that she played Matthew McConaughey’s daughter in Interstellar. That girl grew up and she does a decent job with her interpretation of an English accent too. But I do feel that Morgan Freeman and Helen Mirren were completely wasted in this movie. They both have very little screen time and not much to do. Another thing that I liked was that the music at times hinted back to the original Nutcracker suite by Tchaikovsky. These musical cues were very subtle, but I appreciated that an effort was made to include them in the film. It gave me faith that just maybe the director actually saw an authentic version of The Nutcracker, and not only Alice in Wonderland. I also thought the CGI was very well done. Sometimes you will watch a movie and the CGI is so obvious that it is distracting. It is really hard to tell what is CGI in the movie, which makes it a more enjoyable experience. Probably most of this movie was filmed against a green screen, but I rarely noticed because the CGI was that good. The first moment in which Clara enters the winter forest in the four realms is a perfect example. I had to remind myself that in no way could that have been a real setting because, again, it looked so damn good. And lastly, there is a bit of a surprising twist in the film that definitely helps, but also sometimes hurts, the story.
Some additional negatives with the film is that is just feels disjointed at times. I think some stuff was cut out during the editing process that should have been left in and that maybe it would explain a bit more or provide additional character development for some. Then there were some things I felt that could have been left out. Another thing is that you really don’t care about what happens in the movie. The sign of a good movie is that once it is over, you cant wait to see it again. Once was enough for me with this movie. Also this is supposed to be a Christmas movie but once the get into the four realms, it just loses all of that. I guess you can say that about the original Nutcracker ballet too, but nobody’s mother died in the beginning of that. I sometimes wonder who over at Disney green-lights a lot of these movies and how they can not see that something like this will eventually bomb at the box office. I’m thinking of Tomorrowland and A Wrinkle in Time.
Oh! And if you don’t like clowns, be warned! There is a scene in this movie with a lot of very creepy looking clowns. Normally, clowns don’t bother me, but these were definitely on the dark side and I could see them scaring some kids, and some adults too! Speaking of kids, I am sure there will be some kids that will really enjoy this movie. I don’t know about the adults, but I could see the kids being mesmerized by the costumes, characters and the designs of the world. Also, Clara is a very good role model.
I would say that The Nutcracker and the Four Realms is far from the best Nutcracker adaption, if you want to call it that, but there are probably worse ways you and your family can spend your money if you feel the need to take in a holiday movie.