Ah, Christmas is almost upon us and Disney brings us a massive, $130 million extravaganza loosely modeled on the famous ballet The Nutcracker. Not only is the film colorful and filled with movement but it has the mildest PG rating. Everyone in the family can enjoy this one. Or at least everyone can watch it without being tramatized by violence or bad language.
The cast includes some wonderful oldsters to give the enterprise some gravitas. Oscar winner Helen Mirren and the inevitable, also Oscar winning, Morgan Freeman bring their heavy weight presence to the film. And Keira Knightley (two Oscar nominations) has come a long long way from Bend it Like Beckham to be the lavishly costumed Sugar Plum. Also appearing are a couple of up and coming talents, 18 year old Mackenzie Foy as the princess at the core of the film and Ellie Bamber, 20 in a much smaller supporting role. Bamber we remember from her role in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Knightley starred in Pride and Prejudice, but in the traditional story sans Zombies.
Two directors had a hand in making his one. Swedish born Lasse Hallstrom had the lion's share of the task. He has a long history with remarkable dramas such as Chocolat, What's Eating Gilbert
Grape and The Cider House Rules. The Academy nominated him three times for the golden statue. The tiding up, the re-filming of certain scenes, was the job of another accomplished director, Joe Johnston of Texas. Mr. Johnston, an Oscar winner, made his fame with big blockbuster films like Jurassic Park III and Captain America.
New comer Ashley Powell invented the story and wrote the script.
In a childrens film loaded with Oscar talent we might well expect something extrodinary. Instead, we get a big fat colorful mess. Nothing really works, in spite of the massive talent on every level. Stuff just happens which we do not understand and which doesn't make any sense. The main plot turn, as an example but not the only example, involves a role reversal betweent the assumed evil doer and the assumed goody goody. This change makes no sense in the context of the story line. The characters do not engage oneanother. It seems as if each bit of dialog is spoken by an isolated individual and then the cuts are spliced together. Psychic isolation does not invoke a warm feeling.
The costumes are elaborate and the Mouse King is pretty cool. But the most watchable part of the entire film comes in the credits when ballet dancer Misty Copeland has a chance to dance for us for several minutes. I wanted very much to like this film but is simply isn't good.
The Nutcracker and the Four Realms runs an easy for younger children one hour and 39 minutes. With a PG rating this flawed family friendly fantasy will not please anyone over the age of four. I give it a tiny two saw blades and that for the music, dance and the Mouse King.
The best quote from the dialog is “When Christmas comes we must do our best to enjoy it.” That seems like good advice to me.