Review: The Nutcracker and the Four Realms

Dr. Craig von BuseckBy Dr. Craig von BuseckNovember 28, 20224 Minutes

The Sugarplum Fairy, the Mouse King, tin soldiers, the beautiful ballet, and the magnificent music of Tchaikovsky – these are the elements of the well-known and beloved classic, “The Nutcracker Ballet.” Now Disney Studios brings us the story behind the story with elaborates sets, costumes, and remarkable CGI special effects in “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms.”

Based on the ballet, the movie tells the tale of young Clara (Mackenzie Foy), who has recently lost her mother. Before she died, Clara’s mother told her of a gift she would receive with everything she needs inside. She receives the gift from her godfather, Drosselmeyer (Morgan Freeman), at his annual holiday party. But Clara needs a magical, one-of-a-kind key to unlock the priceless gift.

A golden cord in Drosselmeyer’s mansion leads Clara to the coveted key—which promptly disappears beyond her grasp into a strange and mysterious parallel world. It is there that Clara encounters a soldier named Phillip (Jayden Fowora-Knight) who helps her on her quest to find the key. Along the way they encounter a gang of mice and the regents who preside over three of the Realms: the Land of Snowflakes, the Land of Flowers, and the Land of Sweets.

Clara and Phillip soon learn from the Sugar Plum Fairy (Keira Knightley ) that they must brave the perilous Fourth Realm, home to the tyrannical Mother Ginger (Helen Mirren), to retrieve Clara’s key and hopefully return harmony to this unstable world.

“The Nutcracker and the Four Realms” is a family-friendly movie and there are many memorable values that young audiences can glean and be inspired to follow. The strong female lead, Mackenzie Foy, delivers a performance that demonstrates that regardless of age or gender you can lead with confidence, walk forward with courage, and persevere when the outlook seems dim.

The sets, costumes, and overall design are breathtaking. The CGI animation of the Mouse King is particularly enjoyable, though at times menacing. The ballet by Misty Copeland is beautiful and moving.

Despite an abundance of “eye candy,” where Disney’s Nutcracker falls short is in the strength of the story. Throughout most of the film, we are witness to a series of predictable plot changes – that is until the big surprise, which I won’t give away. While Clara finds herself in an enchanted land, the world of the four realms is not really that ‘magical.’ And problems in the plot are solved far too easily.

What is supposed to be enchanting is only slightly interesting, and what is supposed to be scary is, for the most part, not very suspenseful – unless you are a little kid. However, be warned, the creative imagination of the Clown Matryoshka Dolls and a tumbling pile of mice could be uncomfortable for some children. And perhaps that is the point. This film is mostly geared for children and doesn’t include the entertaining and interesting subtleties that an adult would enjoy, even though a child wouldn’t understand.

The other weakness of this film is that while it includes a cast of great performers, there was not enough screen time for the two superstars, Helen Mirren as Mother Ginger, or Morgan Freeman as Drosselmeyer.

Story is king, and while “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms” is visually stunning, it lacks key elements that could make it a compelling Christmas family film.

Despite these weaknesses, this is a fun holiday movie full of vivid colors, artistic ballet performances, and beautiful cinematography that bring the imagination of the four realms to reality.