The Nutcracker and the Four Realms Movie Review
“The Nutcracker and the Four Realms” is a new Disney movie based on a (very old) story from 1816 called “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King”. So the ‘House of Mouse’ finally gets to work on the ‘Mouse King’. The famous music by Tchaikovsky is based on this story, and some of his memorable themes are also in here. The story has evolved over these years, and now it has the main character Clara going into the realm of a fantasy world to fight evil and make things right. Similar story patterns are found in “The Chronicles of Narnia” and “Alice in Wonderland, as well as finding adventure like ‘Indiana Jones’. So call it — “Indiana Clara and the Realm of Naria in Wonderland”…
In 18th century London, Clara Stahlbaum (Mackenzie Foy) is missing her dead mother, and her father, Mr. Stahlbaum (Matthew Macfadyen), does not know how to deal with it. On Christmas Eve, the family goes to visit Clara’s godfather, named Drosselmeyer (Morgan Freeman). He is an inventor, like Clara, and he sends her out to solve a mystery. But she goes straight into a new fantasy dimension, a land of Four Realms. She meets the rulers of three of the Realms: Land of Snowflakes, Land of Flowers, and Land of Sweets. The Sugar Plum Fairy (Keira Knightley) acts as her guide to the new world. But the Fourth Realm is off-limits. It ruled by Mother Ginger (Helen Mirren). But the Sugar Plum Fairy says Ginger is nothing but an evil tyrant, bent on the destruction of all four Realms.
Clara gets some help from a friendly border guard, and some mice who seem at first to be evil, but then come around to being her best ally. Clara finds out that she was the first one to come to this magical place. Her deceased mother had also come to the land as a child, and she became the Queen. So Clara is officially named the returned Princess. But there is deception afoot. When one of the current rulers becomes obsessed with being the Ruler of all the Realms, she plots against the other rulers, and against Clara. But Clara proves that she is a clever girl after all. Using her scientific knowledge and her skills at design, she makes an alliance with the other Realm rulers, including the Mouse King. They all work in unison to stop the destructive power of the Tin Soldier Army – led by.. Well you will just have to see the movie to find out who that is…
This movie adaptation is just one in a string of versions and revisions to the original story. This one downplays the excellent music of Tchaikovsky to instead rely on a serviceable soundtrack from James Newton Howard. But the basic issue is the lack of originality and the failure to add anything new or fresh to the story. So many themes and plot devices, up to and including some of the screen imagery, have all been done before. This version has two directors and two writers, so there must have been some conflict in the overall concept and execution.
Mackenzie Foy is a perfect Clara, with her wonderful expressions and knowing glances. But Keira Knightley really takes a shine to the Sugar Plum Fairy and gives the role a deliciously off-kilter performance. She starts off so sweet and kind, and before you know it, she is ready to take no prisoners. She has a crazed range between overly too-sweet BFF and turns into a loony power-obsessed Fairy. Helen Mirren does okay in a limited role, and Morgan Freeman only has an extended cameo appearance.
This one would be a pleasant time to spend with the kids or grandkids. There is just enough of the classical ballet and music that the older fans will remember how wonderful the original really was. Of course, the real test is whether this movie can stand up to the best Nutcracker adaptation ever – “Care Bears Nutcracker Suite”!
The Nutcracker and the Four Realms Review
The Nutcracker and the Four Realms Summary
Directed by: Lasse Hallström & Joe Johnston
Screenplay by: Ashleigh Powell & Tom McCarthy
Story by: Ashleigh Powell
Based on: "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King" (by E. T. A. Hoffmann) and "The Nutcracker" (by Marius Petipa)
Starring: Keira Knightley, Mackenzie Foy, Matthew Macfadyen, Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman
Music by: James Newton Howard
Length: 99 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG for some mild peril
Genre: Adventure, Fantasy