Set with the lavish excesses of upper-class London, The Nutcracker… begins with us learning of tragedy and heartbreak: the loss of a loved one, in this case a mother and wife. Still mourning her sudden passing perhaps more so than her siblings, Clara (Mackenzie Foy) yearns for a reunion that sadly isn’t going to come and while her father (Matthew Macfadyen) is adamant they continue as normal, she cannot bring herself to let it pass. She soon learns, thanks to her godfather (Morgan Freeman), that her mother has left something rather special for her to explore, leading her through a Narnia-like corridor into The Four Realms.
Designed with the utmost opulence by Linus Sandgren, who was behind First Man and La La Land, the frames are filled to the brim with beauty, colours bursting from its seams. Helped along its way with some CGI enhancements (some good, some terrible), there’s a cavalcade of wonder from the physical sets that is truly spectacular which makes it all the more painful to report that inside its glistening shell is a rather dull and incohesive endeavour.
Production wasn’t helped but the departure of original director Lasse Hallstrom, who had to leave for (health reasons), (replaced by Marvel alum Joe Johnston), and right from the beginning, everything seems disjointed, as if neither filmmaker was able to wrestle some semblance of story from its flimsy screenplay, leading to such a heavy reliance on its visuals rather than its core.
It’s same from total oblivion by some game performances, notably Keira Knightley who shakes off the shackles of period dramas to play Sugar Plum Fairy and doesn’t she have a ball: the actress herself has said this was pure “pantomime” and she relishes exploring uncharted waters here. Foy, meanwhile, leads with grace as the ingenious Clara but is underserved by the rushed screenplay.
All in all, The Nutcracker & The Four Realms is a rare misfire for Disney as it continues its quest for global film domination. It’s like giving someone a beautiful packaged and presented present at Christmas, topped with a lovely bow and strong, but inside is nothing but a few bits of crumbled paper. A few minutes of real fun, but ultimately a letdown.
Scott J.Davis | [rating=2]
Fantasy, Family | USA, 2018 | PG | 2nd November 2018 (UK) | Disney Studios | Dir. Lasse Hallström, Joe Johnston | Mackenzie Foy, Keira Knightley, Morgan Freeman