Magic is what propels Disney’s adaptation of The Nutcracker through the realms of our imaginations. Immersed in the stories told by Tchaikovsky’s composition, Mackenzie Foy’s Clara is the Victorian English rose we desire her to be. Grieving the loss of her mother, with whom she shared a passion for invention; Clara finds her peace one special Christmas Eve.
Directed by Lasse Hallström and Joe Johnston, Disney’s The Nutcracker and the Four Realms interweaves exquisite performances by American ballet dancer, Misty Copeland with a fantastical retelling of a young girl’s dream-induced adventures.
Attending her godfather and experienced inventor, Drosselemeyer’s (Morgan Freeman) holiday party, Clara, the young girl in question is navigating through emotional turmoil and an uneasy relationship with her widowed father when the story begins. Her journey of self-discovery comes as she falls down the proverbial rabbit hole in her pursuit of the key which unlocks the present her mother left her, a decorative egg with a unique lock.
Clara’s search for the key transports her into a parallel universe inhabited by toys which have been brought to life at the hands, she discovers, of her own mother. The first of whom she encounters is the Nutcracker, Captain Phillip Hoffman (in honour of the German author who wrote The Nutcracker and the Mouse King). A loyal soldier and valiant companion to Clara, Hoffman protects her against the mouse king and delivers her to the heart of the realms.
The four realms, Clara discovers, are ruled over by regents of the lands of Flowers, Snowflakes and Sweets, and not forgetting the fourth realm, formerly the land of Amusements ruled over by Mother Ginger (Helen Mirren). Learning the realms are at war, three against one, Clara is empowered to defend her mother’s memory, and reclaim the key which has been stolen by the mouse populace and hidden in the fourth realm.
The few scenes involving the mice, other fourth realm inhabitants and Mother Ginger, whose face is cracked, did briefly frighten some of the youngsters in the audience. However, my 3.5yo and 6.5yo were unfazed and thought those moments only added to their enjoyment of the film.
Clara joins forces with Keira Knightley’s Sugar Plum Fairy and with the faithful Hoffman by her side, mounts an attack on the fourth realm. What prevails, however, while reclaiming Clara’s lost key, unravels far more than first meets the eye. With alliances shifting, power unbalanced and the cryptic words of her mother’s parting message driving her forward, Clara must use her skills both as an inventor and as leader to this fantastical world to preserve her mother’s legacy and find the answers she’s truly looking for.
While the costumes and sets are a delicious feast for the eyes, the overall pace of the film is perhaps a little slow. Whether this is to reflect the pace of the ballet from which the movie takes its inspiration or to illustrate the slowing down of time in Clara’s real life; the effect is a tad soporific. Nonetheless, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms is a sweet pre-Christmas cinema outing for the whole family.
The Nutcracker and the Four Realms is in cinemas from 22 November 2018.
Running Time: 1h 40 mins