The Nutcracker and the Four Realms movie cast: Keira Knightley, Mackenzie Foy, Eugenio Derbez, Matthew Macfadyen, Richard E. Grant, Misty Copeland, Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman.
The Nutcracker and the Four Realms movie director: Lasse Hallström and Joe Johnston
The Nutcracker and the Four Realms movie rating: 2 stars
One of the oldest Christmas-time stories — hitting the big screen a month too early perhaps — has one new, welcome twist. Clara Stahlbaum, who remains the hero of The Nutcracker, seems to have an easily accessible pocket in whatever clothes she wears. The history of pockets will tell you that is no mean achievement for women, especially in the 17th century where this story is set, and even now.
Disney’s latest fairytale/coming of age/sort-of princess story has other empowering elements about its heroine. She is more interested in science, more derring do, more clever, and more adventurous than any of the men around her. And that holds true for most of the other women in The Nutcracker and the Four Realms too.
That said, there is little more to be said about the film. Deriving from E T A Hoffmann’s short story ‘The Nutcracker and the Mouse King’ and Marius Petipa’s ‘Nutcracker Ballet’, and shot often nicely by Linus Sandgren, it rarely arouses itself to even a twirl.
Despite several known names holding up the rear end, including Knightley and Mirren, the acting also is choppy. Foy is pretty and nice to a fault, but that gentle fragility — wrapped for a painfully long time in a slip of a lavender dress, in biting snow — is often unconvincing in battle. Fowora-Knight as the Nutcracker soldier Phillip Hoffman is the only actor who is consistent throughout. The first person Clara encounters as she crosses into the magical Christmas Tree Forest, to be instantly recognised as its new queen, Hoffman is loyal with a quiet dignity about him.
Knightley plays Sugar Plum, the regent of the realm called Land of the Snowflakes. Her pink hair piled high up on her head, her face done up in an exaggerated manner, Knightley could give Helena Bonham Carter a run for her money. There are three other realms — Land of the Flowers, Land of the Snowflakes, and ‘The Fourth Realm’, led by ‘Mother Ginger’ (Mirren). Mother Ginger’s footsoldiers are mice, hence bringing in the rodents of the original story.
With the other three realms arraigned against Mother Ginger, figuring out how the rest of the story goes and where Clara fits in isn’t too difficult. If you can put your rodent revulsion aside, you might most enjoy those inquisitive mice, which drive a lot of the plot. Or, otherwise, you could walk away with a sight you will find hard to live down — a giant made entirely of a crawling multitude of them.