Starring: Mackenzie Foy, Jayden Fowora-Knight, Keira Knightley
Director: Lasse Hallström, Joe Johnston
Running Time: 99 mins
The Nutcracker And The Four Realms is an American film about a girl who finds herself transported to a magical kingdom on Christmas Eve.
Disney have been on a real roll over the last few years with their live-action fairytale adaptations. Cinderella, The Jungle Book and Beauty And The Beast all proved a pleasingly traditional return to form, and I’m glad to report that the trend continues with The Nutcracker And The Four Realms, albeit not in quite as stellar fashion. It’s an undoubtedly gorgeous piece, and with an enjoyably traditional story, it’s the sort of film that will make you smile, even if there’s not all that much more to it to really grab you.
First off, while I can’t say that this is a perfect film, there’s no denying that it does its main job of providing a visually beautiful and heartwarming fairytale. While The Nutcracker doesn’t have the nostalgia of an old Disney classic to fall back on, the film proves enjoyable regardless, and although some of its parallels to Alice In Wonderland and The Chronicles Of Narnia are a little blatant, it has enough of that Disney magic to warm your heart and make you smile.
Yes, the truth is that the film doesn’t quite have the emotional depth of The Jungle Book, nor does it have the stunning theatrics of Beauty And The Beast, and that does mean it’s an overall more simplistic fairytale, but at its core, it’s wonderful to see a film be so unapologetically traditional, foregoing any need for grandiose and forward messages, and instead using its fantasy magic to entertain you throughout.
Because in comparison to the weird, darker adaptations Disney were doing of their classics a few years ago (think Alice In Wonderland and Maleficent), this new streak of retelling those classics in the same warm style is exactly what the movie world needs at the moment, as too many films – particularly those aimed at young children – are caught up in finding something relevant to the modern day, rather than allowing your imagination to run wild with something just a little bit sweeter.
So, if you’re a fan of all things classic Disney, then The Nutcracker And The Four Realms has exactly what you want, in a short but gleefully enjoyable burst of fantasy action and fairytale drama that had me smiling right the way through.
Away from the story, we turn to what is undoubtedly the film’s strongest suit: the visuals. In all honesty, I find myself drawn to these live-action adaptations simply by the production and costume design, as Disney put such immense effort and attention to detail into capturing the essence of whatever world they’re creating, and that’s once again the case here.
Although the screenplay doesn’t quite do the original tale justice, there’s no doubt that this is the most visually vibrant retelling of The Nutcracker, and with an hour and a half of delightfully bright and colourful costumes, sets and visual effects, you could probably even watch this film with the sound off and still have it warm your heart, such is the exquisite nature of the visuals, which Disney are undoubtedly the world leaders at.
Some of the CGI isn’t quite as exceptional as you’d expect from Disney, and in comparison to the wonderful practical effects, there are moments when some rather garish computer animation does stick out a bit, however it does little to dampen the overall effect of the film’s beautiful production.
Finally, a word on the performances, which are arguably the film’s weakest point. On the one hand, Mackenzie Foy is delightful in the main role, and although she might not have all that much to develop in terms of character depth, she’s an endlessly likable presence on screen, complemented well by a pleasant performance from Jayden Fowora-Knight alongside.
The problem, however, comes with some of the bigger names in the cast. Helen Mirren, although starring in a fairly small role, doesn’t really bring any uniqueness to her character, Mother Ginger, while a few cameos from other A-listers including Richard E. Grant and Morgan Freeman don’t do much to brighten the film either.
However, it’s Keira Knightley that really proves the undoing here, with an hugely annoying performance as Sugar Plum, putting on a pointlessly fluttery voice that grates on the ears far more than it helps develop the character. What’s more is that she really seems to be overacting throughout, putting a little too much emphasis on her character’s quirky gestures and speech patterns, something that makes it seem like a rather superficial and ultimately irritating performance throughout.
Overall, though, I did have a nice time with The Nutcracker And The Four Realms. It’s not Disney’s best of recent years, but it does have that heartwarming traditional fairytale vibe that the movie landscape is so sorely missing nowadays, and that alone is enough to make it a very enjoyable watch. Furthered by absolutely gorgeous visuals across the board, although somewhat held back by a few underwhelming performances, it’s not a perfect film, but it does the job just about well enough, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.4.