The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, rated PG
The Nutcracker and the Four Realms is a delightful live action film from Disney that the entire family will enjoy. It is directed by three-time Oscar nominee Lasse Hallström (The Cider House Rules) and Oscar winner Joe Johnson (Raiders of the Lost Ark). Johnson directed 32 days of reshoots written by Tom McCarthy when Hallström was unavailable, while Hallström oversaw the post-production. The screenplay is written by Ashleigh Powell, based on E.T.A Hoffmann’s 1816 short story The Nutcracker and the Mouse King and the Nutcracker Ballet by Marius Petipa. The film, which has a strong cast, had a budget of approximately $133 million.
Clara, played by Mackenzie Foy (Twilight films, Interstellar) is a teenage girl who has excellent mechanical skills; her mother has recently died. The film is set on Christmas Eve in Victorian London. Her grieving father, played by Matthew Macfadyen, gives her and her brother and sister gifts from their mother. Clara’s gift, a mechanical silver egg, can only be opened by a key, which she does not have.
Later that evening, the family goes to a Christmas Ball at Clara’s godfather Drosselmeyer’s estate. Drosselmeyer is played by Morgan Freeman, five-time Oscar nominee and winner for Million Dollar Baby. Drosselmeyer gives each of the children a gift. As Clara goes after hers, she is transported to a magical world. She sees the key to her egg, but a mouse steals it from her. As she chases the mouse, she meets a Nutcracker Guard named Captain Phillip, played by Jayden Fowora-Knight (Ready Player One). Phillips tells Clara that in that world, her mother was Queen Maria, making her a Princess.
After the mouse who has taken her key gets away, Phillip takes Clara to the palace, where she meets the leaders of three realms – the Land of Snowflakes, led by Shiver played by Richard E. Grant (Gosford Park), the Land of Flowers, led by Hawthorne, played by Eugenio Derbez (Overboard), and the Land of Sweets, led by Sugar Plum, played by Kiera Knightley, two-time Oscar nominee (Pride & Prejudice and The Imitation Game). She has also been looking for the same key that Clara has. Sugar Plum tells Clara about a fourth, dark and evil realm, governed by Mother Ginger, played by Helen Mirren, four-time Oscar nominee and winner for The Queen. Mother Ginger had stolen the key that Clara has been looking for. Clara must get the key from the evil Mother Ginger to save the land from disaster.
The film, which contains very little ballet – just one scene, and the closing credits, with American Ballet Theatre star Misty Copeland – is visually stunning and has a good plot twist. The makeup is outstanding. The production design is done by two-time Oscar nominee Guy Hendrix Dyas (Passengers, Inception), and the costume design is by eight-time Oscar nominee and two-time winner Jenny Beavan (Mad Max: Fury Road, A Room With a View). The outstanding musical score is by eight-time Oscar nominee James Newton Howard (Defiance, Michael Clayton), and incorporates much of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker. The film features strong acting performances particularly from Knightley, Foy and Fowora-Knight.
Themes include being self-reliant, working as a team, courage, sacrifice, forgiveness and family. Very young children may be frightened at times.
The Nutcracker and the Four Realms is an entertaining film that the entire family will enjoy.