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The Nutcracker and the Four Realms is in a world all its own, breaking out from the mold of the original ballet classic into a unique cinematic experience. This Nutcracker pays tribute to the original ballet, but not in the ways we’d expect, and ultimately, uses the base of the beloved suite to form a completely new version of itself that asks to be judged on its own merit rather than in comparison.
Nutcracker and the Four Realms is visually captivating, filled with beautiful scenery, lavish set designs, and stunning cinematography. From an aesthetic standpoint, this film is a real treat for the eyes and that breathtaking imagery is by far one of the film’s greatest strengths. The production definitely kept the ballet in mind, as every element is done on a grand scale. Anything less than spectacular would fall flat, especially when you are introducing an audience to a completely new world.
When you visit each location, whether it be the frosty streets of London in the opening sequence or the grand tour of each of the realms, you’re fully immersed in the sights, sounds, and atmosphere. The film uses that immersion to its advantage, even taking a page from the Walt Disney classic, Fantasia, with a beautiful scene that pays tribute to the unforgettable symphony. The scene features Ballerina Princess, Misty Copeland, as she re-enacts the history of the Four Realms. Just like Fantasia, it’s theatrical, colorful, and exuberant.
Costume design played hand in hand with that aesthetic, bringing the world of the Nutcracker to life with intricate, appealing, and eye-popping elements that come right off the screen. Costume Designer, Jenny Beavan, has really outdone herself with every single character, complementing the look of the film while finding ways to add unique flair. One example of this is Clara’s soldier attire. The uniform exemplifies Clara’s fiery attitude and independent personality.
That independent streak rings throughout the film, especially with the help of Mackenzie Foy. Clara is in every sense a fighter for what she believes in, with or without the uniform. Foy does a fantastic job, bringing a genuinely fun and engaging performance to the table, reminding us all that it is okay to not only be brave and curious but also uncertain and vulnerable. She is a wonderful role model for young girls, and part of a growing trend of positive female characters that society needs more of.
Foy is joined by a star-studded cast, with the expected strength of Morgan Freman, Keira Knightley, and Helen Mirren. Yet, even with such big Hollywood icons, the most entertaining character outside of Clara is a relative unknown. Jayden Fowora-Knight, whose only other screen credit includes a brief appearance in Spielberg’s Ready Player One, is marvelous as the Nutcracker. He compliments Foy perfectly, bringing in plenty of charm and poise. He’s definitely someone to keep an eye out for, as this may be just the beginning for him.
Nevertheless, the stars haven’t completely aligned with this film. While everything else about this film plays itself out marvelously, the story still feels lacking. Once Clara enters the land of the Four Realms, the pace moves incredibly fast, creating gaps in the narrative and leaves you wanting more. We are sped through the central conflict, which feels glossed over and a bit too easy to overcome along with a villain that gets very little screen time. Because of that, the pay off doesn’t have the same luster and it’s hard to not wonder if there was something left on the cutting room floor.
Still, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms is an entertaining adventure that’s perfect to get you in the holiday spirit. There are so many wonderful elements put together to make this film a reality, along with the potential to be something more than it is. If you are interested in a heartwarming family tale, there’s definitely something in this picture for you. It’s marvelous, beautiful, and has the key to unlock a very positive experience if you give it the chance to do so.