If you’re the type that can’t read a full movie review and just want to know if it’s good or bad, I can answer that question about Disney’s The Nutcracker and the Four Realms in about 60 seconds.
But, if you want to know why you should or shouldn’t see this movie, read on. Because I’ve got lots of opinions.
What’s this movie all about?
In my video review, I mentioned that this movie is based on The Nutcracker ballet – the story we all know that comes to life on stages all over the world every Christmas. The truth is that this movie is actually based on an 1816 story by E.T.A. Hoffmann called “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King.”
It was apparently a dark tale about a little girl named Marie who lives in the strict, rule-bound family of the Stahlbaums. Marie’s eccentric godfather, Drosselmeier, appears and literally stirs things up with the toys he’s made. Later in the evening, Marie falls into a dream or dream-like state and experiences an intense battle of the toys;
In this original version, a Marie worries about a beautiful nutcracker that’s been broken. At night, she goes to check up on it. To her surprise, it has come alive, and a story-within-the-story begins: armies of mice and toy soldiers battle in what is either the child’s delirious nightmare, or perhaps another reality into which she wanders. – NPR
Many years later, this story was adapted and lightened up by Alexandre Dumas Père’ and ultimately was set the music of Tchaikovsky. It was in Christmas of 1892 that the ballet premiered and became a holiday tradition for many.
In Disney’s movie, the story parallels the original version a bit more. The little girl is Clara Stahlbaum who has recently lost her mother and is searching to find happiness and meaning. Her family travels to the home of her eccentric godfather, Drosselmeyer, where Clara stumbles into an alternate world and discovers the four realms originally brought to life by her mother as a little girl.
Did it hit the mark?
There are so many positives about this movie. Mackenzie Foy is absolutely lovely as Clara. She definitely lit up the screen in every scene. And the costumes. Oh, the costumes! And how can you not love the Land of Flowers, Land of Sweets, and Land of Snowflakes?
What was missing was story. The story is like combination of The Wizard of Oz and The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. But it never manages the story arc of the former or the complexities of the latter. We’re left wondering how exactly these four realms exist and why. We’re also wondering why the realms are at odds with each other and why everyone hates Mother Ginger and the fourth realm.
In addition to that, the acting felt a little forced and stilted at times. (Mackenzie Foy and Helen Mirren were definitely the bright spots in the movie).
And finally, I was really expecting this to be more closely based on the ballet. That’s my fault for my having the proper expectations going in. It’s a great introduction for kids to ballet with a featured performance by Misty Copeland. But I would have loved for more of Tchaikovsky’s music to have been incorporated. That’s a missed opportunity to expose kids to classical music, in my opinion.
Who is this movie really for?
I did take my 11 year old son with me to see the movie and I always ask his opinion before I share mine. In this case, we were both in agreement with the film. It wasn’t for us. So who is it for?
Younger kids might enjoy the visual aspect of the movie but the story might feel a little slow for them. I’d recommend this movie for younger girls (ages 8-12) who will probably love the movie. When I was that age, I loved fantasy and could only dream of stumbling into a magical world like the Four Realms.
If you have princess lovers or kids looking for strong, smart, strong-willed female characters, you’ll be able to overlook everything I didn’t love about this film.