“The Nutcracker and the Four Realms” stars Mackenzie Foy, Keira Knightley, Helen Mirren, and Morgan Freeman. Released on November 2, 2018, the film is about a young girl who is chosen to save a magical world from an evil force.
The film is directed by Lasse Hallstrom and Joe Johnston. Hallstrom is known for directing other films such as “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen”, “Safe Haven”, and “A Dog’s Purpose”, while Johnston is known for directing films like “Jumanji” and “Captain America: The First Avenger”. It is based on the story, The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, by E. T. A. Hoffmann. It is also based on the ballet, The Nutcracker, by Marius Petipa. After tackling yet another live-action adaptation of one of their animated classics a few months ago, Disney is now ready to adapt something that’s not part of their animation line-up. The Nutcracker has delighted just about everyone for many, many years with its choreography, music, and ingenious storytelling. In fact, it was so well-known that there were plenty of adaptations that accurately or loosely follow the source material, like the 1990 animated film, “The Nutcracker Prince”, and the critically-panned “The Nutcracker in 3D” back in 2010. If someone were to ask me if I’m familiar with the source material, the only things that come to my mind are the adaptations that involve Barbie, Mickey Mouse, and “Tom and Jerry”. I’m not kidding about the former, by the way. I actually watched the Barbie version during my childhood. It was a weird time for me. So yeah, I have not seen an actual version of the source material, so maybe this latest adaptation should help me get into the true spirit of The Nutcracker. The marketing team did a decent job at expressing the film’s visual presentation, but is it enough to continue Disney’s suitable streak of live-action “reimaginings”?
Taking inspiration from the source material, the story follows Clara (Foy), a girl who received a gift from her late mother that was created by her godfather, Drosselmeyer (Freeman). Her attempt to uncover the mystery of her gift leads her to a mystical dimension that consists of four realms, each of which is lead by a magical regent. With the help of the Nutcracker (Jayden Fowora-Knight), and the Sugar Plum Fairy (Knightley), Clara must find a way to restore the realms before everything she knows will be lost forever. The major quality that attract me to Disney’s recent live-action films (mostly the remakes of their animated gems) is the visual effects. Whether the final product is tolerable or not, it’s easy for me to admit that Disney never fails to make the visuals and set designs both irresistible and colorful for the kids and the adults. I’m happy to say that “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms” is no exception. The way they designed the world of The Nutcracker and the bizarre characters is like being in a dream. A weird, but kid-friendly, dream that seems too good to be true. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the film’s execution. Yes, my friends, just like anybody who’s a big Disney fan, I too was disappointed in how the story turned out. It’s not the worst movie I’ve seen from my favorite studio, but I can definitely see that it lacked a special something that made the source material one of the most memorable and dazzling holiday treats in history. It had some suitable messages that kids can learn from the film, which I appreciate, but that’s hardly the case when the characters are forgettable and its storytelling is mediocre. There were a couple of moments that I enjoyed, including the beautiful dance sequence from ballet dancer Misty Copeland, but that’s about it. On the plus side, the acting in the film was highly decent for the most part. Mackenzie Foy was pretty solid in her role as Clara, and newcomer Jayden Fowora-Knight was enjoyable to watch as the Nutcracker who assists Clara. Oh, and Morgan Freeman is in it as well as Clara’s godfather. He’s just there for the paycheck. As for Keira Knightley as the Sugar Plum Fairy, let’s just say if you don’t like certain characters that have a high-pitched voice, there’s a 50 percent chance that you won’t tolerate her in this. If you think that’s bad, just wait until you see her in the third act. Long story short, I really didn’t like her in the third act. The experience of watching this film is almost like “A Wrinkle in Time” back in March. It’s gorgeous to look at and the messages ring true to kids, but the plot has a lot of simplistic qualities that failed to match its style. At least in “A Wrinkle in Time”, there was an actual attempt at making an average story tolerable. “The Nutcracker” didn’t really have that much of an attempt to begin with, even with the original Nutcracker score.
Overall, “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms” has a visual style that resembles an Oz-like dream, but in terms of its plot and characters, this is one nut that even the Nutcracker couldn’t break. Not only is it the weakest film in the "Disney live-action reimagining" library, but it is also the most forgettable adaptation of The Nutcracker that any studio has ever produced, in my opinion. I guess Disney is more capable in handling live-action remakes of their animated classics compared to adapting some random source material into a big-budget “blockbuster”. If you’re still interested in seeing it regardless, you’re more than welcome to do so, but keep your expectations low just in case. For everyone else, it’s worth watching at home for the visuals and set designs alone.