Does Disney just make these live-action movies for the purpose of giving children sensory overload at this point. The Nutcracker and the Four Realms to put it succinctly is an overstimulating and over bloated movie with such an over reliance on CGI environments that it hopes it provides enough spectacle to take an extremely lackluster film into something profitable. I’m going to pretty much critic all the elements in the way the screenplay was written, all in one go and putting little organization into my thoughts. First I want to exclude Mackenzie Foy and Jayden Fowora-Knight from what I assume is going to be predominately unkind critics on the film. I thought the young actors weren’t given a chance to really stand out as they were working with some hackney material but overall they did a good job.
Going Through the motions (SPOILERS CONTAINED IN THIS SECTION)
For a movie that is piggybacking off of a well established holiday classic it seems to have more in common with the less than stellar A Wrinkle in Time. I mean it only took like four lines of dialogue before we inorganically introduced Disney Cliche # 1 Dead parents. Then we proceed to have one of the most bland and formulaic plots with no real heart to it. Other cliches include Disney’s recent favorite secret villain/suspected villain is really misunderstood ( are children going to grow up with trust issues after watching all these Disney movies recycle this not even surprising twist at this point). Then we had the magic McGuffin egg in which we’re going to risk getting lost in this forest and almost die for and then get upset when a magic genie doesn’t pop out. I mean I understand a family movie isn’t going to go too far off the beaten path but the whole “everything you ever need” was inside of me the whole time is the most generic and impersonal theme you can really do at this point. Maybe if the really showed Clara struggling with self-confidence (also the “your mother’s greatest creation” is very insensitive when you have two siblings) that is journey would have been fulfilling in someone but they never really show that. What do I know maybe all the unappealing plot contrivances was the friends we made along the way.
The Major Players
The characters in this movie… are not good. I’m going to be honest and say the version of the nutcracker I’m most familiar with is the Tom & Jerry version but the characters were just as poorly one note and uninteresting.
- Morgan Freeman – Dressed like he’s trying to play every Samuel Jackson part all at once. Only contributions to the movie was playing spooky Sonic.exe music and quoting Jurassic Park.
- Rosencrantz and Guildenstern – Generic comic relief, personally found them not very funny and horribly forgettable.
- Snow Miser and the other guy – I can’t tell you why they are in this movie, they are only here to look hideous and I guess it’s the “Four Realms” so I guess if we’re only travelling to two of them you get these guys to stand around. You could completely cut them completely out of the film and nothing would change.
- Mother Ginger – The plot demands this character to exist, but we refuse to try and do anything interesting about it.
- Sugar Plum – Keira Knightley was giving a performance reminiscent of Michelle Williams… in I Feel Pretty. I’m sorry the voice was so grating and when she starting feeling pleasure I felt she was getting bizarrely orgasmic… this character was uncomfortable to watch I wish snow miser could of got some screen time so we could have less of her in the movie.
- Others – The Dad was a plot device, the rat venom thing was cute but underutilized in both its roles, and everyone else really isn’t important.
The Rest of the problems
No self-respecting director who cared about offering a mesmerizing and heart-felt dramatic adventure or genuinely cared for the source material allows the Wilhelm Scream in their movie (It happens twice when people are getting sucked into the ground in the 4th Realm). Other people will say that this for kids but who’s child asked for this. Why is there little to no attempts at humor if this is a children’s flick. Why is the dialogue this weird faux-Shakespearean Old-English sounding sophistication to it. Why are there creepy- Russian nesting clowns that seems ripped straight out of Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland. Why are the main characters so robotic?
The positive reviews seem to argue that the art department and SFX is worth the price of admission…no. While I do think that it is difficult to tell what is real and what is fake with some of the elaborate set designs they have most of the time the screen just looks like crayola flavored vomit. The opening of the film is so fake looking that it would make just as much sense being the first shot in The Polar Express. Most of the costumes look hideous and lack and creative or innovative design to them. I will admit that some of Clara’s dresses and costumes are very pretty but everyone is either too simple or too busy looking. I don’t know why Disney is going for this everyone looking like a drag-queen look and I don’t mean that to be an insult, honestly if you’re going to have people stealing their look you might as well of just had them be drag queens (DO IT DISNEY).
As for an adaptation the music is there. It is honestly really disappointing that with one of the most iconic music scores at the films disposal and all I can really say was that it was there. They completely failed to do it justice, they didn’t remix it in a refreshing way, and it never felt epic. It honestly felt like hey, where doing the Nutcracker so we need to put this song in somewhere. Really a shame, the only faithfulness in the film was a huge aside where they stopped the movie, brought to a screeching halt just to have a ballet performance in the middle. It was maybe the best part of the film but its incorporation seemed oddly introduced.
The good news is that there are literally thousands of other versions of the Nutcracker to watch and I’m going to have to say that there’s at least a thousand better versions out there. I can’t imagine those poor animators who spent all that time and effort into this film and have it result in such a lifeless and flat film. This film is really apparently putting in the minimum effort of established property put into a formulaic and cliche plot. Its a movie that apparently impresses some people with its over the top visuals but I think it in some spots looks like a Spy-Kids Movie and it not only fails to find the heart that has keep the nutcracker tale alive but shows no heart at all.
But what did you think of The Nutcracker and the Four Realms? Let me know in the comments below. Thanks for stopping by and I’ll see you at the movies.
Main Image credit: Disney