The Nuctcracker and the Four Realms

THE NUTCRACKER AND THE FOUR REALMS,   US, 2018.  Starring Mackenzie Foy, Keira Knightley, Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman, Matthew McFadyen, Jaden Fowora-Knight, Omid Djalili, Jack Whitehall, Richard E.Grant, Meera Syal, Ellie Bamber, Eugenio Derbez, Misty Copeland. Directed by Lasse Hallstrom, Joe Johnston. 99 minutes. Rated PG (Fantasy themes.)

There have been quite a number of versions of the Nutcracker story, animated, live action, based on the story by the Russian author, Hoffman, but, probably, the best-known version is that of Tchaikovsky, the Nutcracker Suite. In fact, while this story is based on Hoffman’s tale and the narrative tale for the Nutcracker ballet, there are excerpts from Tchaikovsky’s Suite throughout the film – not entirely integrated with the plot, just a number of excerpts now and then.

This film is rather like an over-rich Christmas cake. Plenty of ingredients, all mixed together, some very tasty, some that you would put aside, some where one wonders why they are there in the first place.

The film was codirected by Swedish director, Lasse Halstrom, who has been directing a wide range of films for the last 40 years, especially in the United States. He is joined by action director, Joe Johnston. One might wonder which sections were directed by which director.

While the opening has the look of London, the family has very Germanic names, and, once the audience is taken into the Four Realms, the main castle looks like the Cathedral of St Basil in Moscow.

Matthew McFadyen is a rather stern father, mourning his wife, trying to make emotional contact with his grieving daughter, Clara (Mackenzie Foy) demanding that she go to a party celebration with her brother and sister and dance with her father. Instead, she goes to the basement, finding a friendly inventor (Morgan Freeman looking and sounding Americanly bizarre in this context), wanting to open the gift of a decorated egg from her dead mother. It has the key to her future – and, we guess, she will be guided to look into herself and her strengths. She is.

For most of the action, she is led into the Four Realms, encountering a sympathetic Captain, going down a hole which is immediately a reminder of Alice in Wonderland, encountering strange and I would characters and Sugar Plum, all eccentric sweetness and light, Keira Knightley. There are some revelations About Clara actually is, the identity of Clara’s mother, the effect of her leaving the Four Realms, and searing power struggles and Sugar Plum revealing sinister ambitions, bringing toy soldiers to life, mischievous mice, battles and some derring-do. And, Mother Ginger appears, played sympathetically by Helen Mirren.

All’s well and ends with but it has been something of a gluggy journey to get there.

Disney                      Released November 29th

Peter Malone MSC is an Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.

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