#REVIEW: “THE NUTCRACKER AND THE FOUR REALMS”
Review by George Kozera for Mr. Will Wong
THE NUTCRACKER AND THE FOUR REALMS opens with the most impressive segue from the iconic Disney Magic Kingdom Castle logo as it follows an owl through the snowy landscape of 1800s Victorian London and lands in an attic where Clara (Mackenzie Foy) and her younger brother Fritz (Tom Sweet) catch an errant mouse with an elaborate mousetrap. Thus, one theme is already set in motion: elaborate gizmos, inquisitive children and mice. Lots and lots of the tiny furry rodents.
Clara and her two siblings recently lost their beloved mother, Marie, and on this Christmas Eve, their father (a stoic Matthew Macfadyen) gives his children gifts specifically left to them by Marie. Clara gets a jeweled Faberge egg with a note saying “Everything you need is inside”. Unfortunately, the egg is locked and there is no key inside the box it came in to open it. She takes the egg with her to the Christmas Eve party hosted by her godfather, Drosselmeyer (a lazy, eye-patched performance from Morgan Freeman). The exquisitely-filmed party sequence is spectacularly realized and the feast to the eyes: a CGI-generated live action banquet of astonishing proportions. Each child attending the Christmas party must find their name on a golden thread emanating from a spiderweb-like contraption and follow the thread to where their gift can be found. Clara’s thread takes her outside the mansion and into a Narnia-inspired world. Inside this portal, she meets a nutcracker soldier Captain Phillip (Jayden Fowora-Knight) who tells her that Marie was the queen of the Realms and she is a princess here. Alongside Phillip, she meets Sugar Plum Fairy (Keira Knightley) from the Land of the Sweets, Shiver (an unrecognizable Richard E. Grant) from the Land of the Snowflakes and Hawthorne (Eugenio Derbez) from the Land of the Flowers. Clara is also warned by Phillip that she must stay away from the Fourth Realm ruled by the tyrannical Mother Ginger (a sadly under-utilized Helen Mirren) which is exactly where a spunky mouse with the key to the Faberge egg clenched in its teeth is heading towards, with the help of thousand other rodents that morph into the Mouse King.
THE NUTCRACKER AND THE FOUR REALMS is a hybrid taking its cues from the 1816 Novel “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King” and the holiday perennial ballet with music by Tchaikovsky. Directed by Joe Johnston (Captain America: The First Avenger) and Lasse Hallstrom (The Cider House Rules), each man bring their special talents and imprint. Johnston’s mastery of CGI imagery makes THE NUTCRACKER AND THE FOUR REALMS one of the most visually impressive movies I have seen this year. My breath was taken away many, many times! Hallstrom elicits emotional responses towards the characters. I enjoyed Keira Knightley’s whimsical, spirited approach to the character. Sugar Plum Fairy is all cotton candy and giggles and balloons and a pure joy and welcome presence whenever on screen. Mackenzie Foy has such a strong screen presence. A beautifully-compelling performance. James Newton Howard’s Score is lush with snippets of Tchaikovsky’s classic music interspersed throughout. There is also a lovely ballet sequence performed with grace and strength by Misty Copeland. Yes, it throws a wrench into the Movie’s progression but it a nice nod to the theatrical favourite and should enthrall the young budding ballerinas in the cinema. But what is stopping THE NUTCRACKER AND THE FOUR REALMS from becoming a Christmas Classic is its overwhelming sense of sadness. It is lacking a sense of humour and the few stabs at it are pedestrian.
That said, I genuinely enjoyed the trip to all the Realms in the magical world on screen and seeing another star, Mackenzie Foy, rising in the movie galaxy.
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Canada release THE NUTCRACKER AND THE FOUR REALMS Friday, November 2, 2018.