The Nutcracker and the Four Realms review


The Nutcracker and the Four Realms

Disney’s take on the classic fairytale is more gaudy confection than Christmas cracker

Disney’s Nutcracker arrives with a “suggested by” credit, devoted to ETA Hoffmann and Marius Petipa. Further credits could have gone to Tim Burton’s Alice In Wonderland or Ava DuVernay’s A Wrinkle In Time, both parallel Disney examples of over-stylised self-realisation fables messily culled from beloved source material. Whether or not the much-reported handover between directors Lasse Hallström and Joe Johnston for reshoots is to blame here, this ‘cracker is a random hodgepodge of underpowered set-pieces, all dressed up with nowhere to go but back to the well of unwitting saviour figures visiting gaudy fantasy worlds.

Mackenzie Foy makes the sturdiest impression as Clara, a science-minded teenager whose late mother leaves her the parting gift of a Fabergé-style egg. All it needs is a key, the pursuit of which steers Clara first to her twinkly godfather, Drosselmeyer (Morgan Freeman, of course), and then into four magical ‘realms’ wracked by conflict. Could Clara restore harmony? And, in the process, find herself?

She could, after encounters with CG mice, a sentient nutcracker named Phillip (Jayden Fowora-Knight), and a gaggle of British stars whose attitude to the garish scenery appears to be: chew it for dear life. While Helen Mirren and Richard E Grant provide hauteur on cue, Keira Knightley banks the biggest laughs as the Sugar Plum Fairy, her toxic shriek suggestive of too much time at the sweet bowl.

Drosselmeyer’s inventive contraptions and a skin-crawling Mouse King aside, the CG images are similarly, cloyingly over-indulged. If the opening sweep through a wintery London resembles flicking through Christmas cards, the ‘we must’ (do this, do that) thrust of the plotting seems engineered primarily to usher us between grandiose settings.

As for movement and music, don’t expect too much. Misty Copeland’s cameo is fleeting, while James Newton Howard’s score mixes nods to Tchaikovsky with echoes of Burton’s favoured composer, Danny Elfman: another reminder that this is, essentially, Burton’s Wonderland with baubles on.

General release from Fri Nov 2.

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms


  • 2 stars
  • 2018
  • US
  • 1h 39min
  • PG
  • Directed by: Lasse Hallström, Joe Johnston
  • Cast: Keira Knightley, Mackenzie Foy, Eugenio Derbez, Matthew Macfadyen, Richard E. Grant, Misty Copeland, Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman
  • UK release: 2 November 2018

Clara (Foy) is a science-minded teenager whose late mother leaves her a jewellery egg which needs a key, the search for which involves journeying into magical realms. A random hodge-podge of underpowered set pieces loosely inspired by ETA Hoffmann, with the supporting cast chewing the scenery and a lot of grandiose…



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