Reel Reviews | The Nutcracker and the Four Realms

by Charles Kirkland Jr.

The tale of the Nutcracker is given an expansion to include a new Disney Princess in The Nutcracker and the Four Realms.

It’s Christmas time for the Stahlbaum family.  Sadly, it is the first Christmas for Clara (Mackenzie Foy), her little brother Fritz (Tom Sweet) and older sister Louise (Ellie Bamber) without their mother who has died.  Dad (Matthew Macfadyen) is insistent upon keeping to the normal Christmas regimen which includes dressing up and attending the Christmas Eve party thrown by Clare’s Godfather (Morgan Freeman).  Before the party, the children are given gifts left to them by their mother to open.  Clara receives a Faberge style egg with a key slot on it.  The note attached tells Clara “Everything she needs is inside” but there is no key.  At the party, while searching for her gift from her seemingly knowledgeable Godfather, Clara is transported to a magical land known as The Four Realms where her mother was the queen (making her a princess!).  Because of her mother’s absence, the land is now changed and is in need of someone to lead them once again.

Beautiful in color and striking in design, directors Lasse Hallstrom and Joe Johnson create a work that is gorgeous in its set design and cinematography.  Hallstrom (What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Chocolat) started the movie and had to stop because of other commitments and Johnson (Captain America: The First Avenger) was called in to complete the movie.  Their work together is seamless though and it is almost impossible to tell where one starts and the other ends.

Written by Ashleigh Powell based upon the short stories “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King and “The Nutcracker Ballet”, this movie has “The Nutcracker” all over it.  Tchaikovsky’s music is everywhere and Misty Copeland performs an incredible ballet scene (stay for the credits for even more).  Keira Knightley plays Sugarplum, a clear reference to the fairies of the same name in the ballet.  However, Powell creates a modern and progressive Disney princess than ever seen before.  Clara is smart.  She is a STEM product.  She believes in physics and uses her engineering skills to repair machinery.  It is the use of these skills which allow her to save the kingdom and even though she saves the land, Clara is not given to the trappings of other princesses who do things for love.  She does them because they are right and what a ruler should do for her constituents.

The destruction of the nuclear family, an ongoing device of Disney movies, is present in this movie too.  As told previously, the mother is absent but there is an underlying theme of creepiness and inappropriateness with the father.  Dad, clearly in mourning but seems to be trying to get his daughters to take their mother’s place in the family.

Rated PG for mild peril, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms is a saccharine sweet movie full of girl power and cuteness.  It is not a movie to be taken for depth or even for a great story.  The plot twist is expected and predictable and nothing is really too fresh or original.  Kudos should be given for Disney making a princess that is more progressive.  Too bad she is unbelievable.

Grade C