Warning: Minor spoilers ahead for “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms.”
Disney’s newest bid for nostalgic moviegoers is “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms,” based on E.T.A. Hoffmann’s classic tale and its famous ballet adaptation.
This version reimagines the love story between Clara and the Nutcracker as a tale of young Clara (Mackenzie Foy) grappling with her mother’s death. She soon discovers the four realms, a parallel universe where her mother was queen – and embarks on a meandering, predictable, and wholly uninspired adventure to save the day.
Critics have largely agreed that the film lacks a cohesive or interesting angle, sacrificing original storytelling for aggressive CGI and lavish visuals.
“It feels like even children will find the film annoying and predictable,” INSIDER wrote in its review. “Its recycled plot, garish costume design, and half-hearted callbacks to the original add nothing to the beloved story of ‘The Nutcracker.'”
The film currently has a 34% on Rotten Tomatoes. Here’s what critics are saying.
It’s a visual feat, vibrant and intricate – but sometimes excessively so.
“The real stars of this film are the hundreds and hundreds – sit through the credits and marvel at the number – of visual effects folk who have let us swoop over these snowy cities and forests on the wings of a bird, who use thousands of wriggling mice to come together to make one big Mouse King, and who make a legion of tin soldiers marching look positively frightening.”
“The costuming team’s work is remarkably intricate: the detail, the fineness of the fabrics’ textures, the use of colour.”
“[‘Elaborate’ is] clearly the effect Disney was going for, all but overwhelming audiences with both the scale and the intricacy of this fantasy world… It’s all too much to take in at once – the kind of overkill for which Liberace was known.”
“It tries to colour its backgrounds with so much gadgetry and expensive-looking busywork that it covers up the fact that very little about it makes sense. Spoiler alert: It doesn’t work.”
It’s full of tropes, character traits, and plot points borrowed from other stories.
“For a movie with so much stuff to look at, the only things you really see during ‘The Nutcracker and the Four Realms’ are all of the recent movies that it’s flagrantly trying to recycle. If the premise suggests a less ambitious riff on ‘The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe,’ the candied aesthetic reeks of a less hostile and hideous take on Tim Burton’s ‘Alice in Wonderland.'”
“[The movie] pads out the slender, dreamlike fable at its heart with an at times needlessly busy narrative that evokes ‘Alice in Wonderland,’ ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’ and, at its most extravagant, Cirque du Soleil.
A subplot involves Clara’s journey of self-discovery and feminist empowerment, a seemingly de rigueur plot point these days in every female-centric Disney offering from ‘Beauty and the Beast’ to ‘A Wrinkle in Time.'”
“‘The Nutcracker’ simply took tropes, character traits, and plot points from other movies that no one asked to relive, including ‘The Chronicles of Narnia,’ ‘Alice in Wonderland,’ ‘Peter Pan’ – and, weirdly enough, ‘The Santa Clause 2.'”
“Every aspect of of the movie feels as if it’s been determined by algorithm, workshopped and test-marketed into a state of pleasant, fleeting dullness.
[Helen Mirren is] chewed up and spit out by the film’s generic fantasy-adventure plot, which includes elements of the ‘Harry Potter’ series, ‘The Chronicles Of Narnia,’ and ‘Alice In Wonderland’ and involves a war between the four realms that only Clara can solve.”
Keira Knightley’s performance is a highlight.
“Only a saucy Keira Knightley, as Sugar Plum Fairy, keeps us even vaguely interested.”
“Knightley has quite a bit of fun with her role as the sprightly Sugar Plum, adopting a high-pitched, whack-a-doodle characterization that is Reese Witherspoon in ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ meets Helena Bonham Carter in everything.”
“Knightley scores at least a few fun moments as a bubbly pixie miles away from her usual dramatic leading ladies of literature.”
“Star Keira Knightley has great fun with this role, adding unexpected elements of Mae West to its Snow White core.”
Mackenzie Foy is a convincing heroine.
“It’s safe to say the whole film would fall apart if not for a brilliant performance from Mackenzie Foy as Clara. Soft, angry, tender, pained and regal – Foy is absolutely luminous, both a tomboy and a princess. She speaks through her eyes and really digs into lines like ‘The real world doesn’t make sense anymore.'”
“Perhaps a generation of young girls will find inspiration in seeing Clara discover the strength she needs inside (Foy plays her newfound confidence quite convincingly) before charging off to battle like some cause-less Joan of Arc.”
“Thanks to her youthful freckled face and porcelain features, casting her as Clara makes aesthetic sense. She looks the part. The good news is, she also has talent. That freckled face is subtly expressive, and she does her best to give depth to the tired lines she’s given.”
Ultimately, it pays too much attention to aesthetics and not enough to everything else.
“Here we have an uninspired screensaver of a movie that fails to offer children interesting characters to care about/see themselves in, a coherent plot to follow, or even the faintest trace of humanity under its $US130 million husk of gorgeous sets and garish special effects. It’s a chore to sit through now, and in all likelihood it will be a chore to sit through always.”
“Much of the film feels like a cast improvising their way through a big-budget ‘Wizard of Oz’-esque spectacle… There’s nothing grounding enough here; everything – the sets, the costumes, the performances – seems to drift off in a CGI haze.”
“‘The Nutcracker And The Four Realms’ is probably going to be nominated for at least one Oscar. And costume designer Jenny Beavan and production designer Guy Hendrix Dyas will richly deserve the nods their fanciful Rococo creations will more than likely earn them a couple of months from now. And that’s about all anyone will remember about this latest in Disney’s line of milquetoast live-action fairy tales, another beautiful yet oddly flavourless confection that treats movie magic as a primarily visual concern.”
The movie is currently in theatres. Watch the trailer below.