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November 7, 2018

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms (2018) --- “The Classic Story We All Know And Love Has A Dark Side.”

Plot Summary
Young Clara needs a magical, one-of-a-kind key to unlock a box that contains a priceless gift. A golden thread leads her to the coveted key, but it soon disappears into a strange and mysterious parallel world. In that world, she meets a soldier named Phillip, a group of mice and the regents who preside over three realms. Clara and Phillip must now enter the fourth realm to retrieve the key and restore harmony to the unstable land. (1)

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Hello, Movie Buffs! 
     For most families, going to see a production of The Nutcracker at the ballet or in a film is a firm tradition during the holiday season. Now fans of the story can see it on the big screen in Disney’s The Nutcracker and The Four Realms (2018), a retelling of the immortal, light-hearted and poetic fantasy that has captivated audiences for decades.

     The Nutcracker was first originated in 1819 by German author E.T.A Hoffmann’s and follows the young protagonist, Marie as she watches her nutcracker and dolls come to life to help her defeat the evil Mouse King. Marie journey’s into a new realm, ultimately leaving the human world behind, where she becomes queen and marries the inventor’s nephew, who was temporarily transformed into a nutcracker. Dolls and toys are sacrificed in Hoffmann’s dark story and while entertaining it is understandable why the story is not familiar with most families.
     Most families are familiar with French author Alexander Dumas’ 1844 retelling where he has created a more vibrant and considerably lighthearted picture for children. His story includes the spun-sugar forest which then inspired the Russian Imperial Theater to commission famous composer Tchaikovsky to put the story to music in 1892.
     As you can see, The Nutcracker is a story that has been evolving, adapting, and being tweaked from the very beginning and Disney’s The Nutcracker and The Four Realms (2018) is no exception. Directors Lasse Hallström (Chocolate; What’s Eating Gilbert Grape) and Joe Johnston (The Rocketeer), and writer Ashleigh Powell were determined to revitalize Hoffmann’s tale and bring it back to its darker roots while still retaining the whimsy and imaginative world that Clara explores both in Dumas’ retelling and alongside Tchaikovsky music.
     This re-imagined storyline is definitely different than any I've seen before but it is no less a magical Christmas film filled with many cherished characters, stunning sets, vibrant costumes, and a good – slightly different – moral story. Although the story is not based on the Ballet it does take time to pay tribute to the story’s most famous for. A beautiful display of the dance performed by Misty Copeland (A Ballerina’s Tale) was splendid to watch and felt like you were attending the ballet. For the music, composer James Newton Howard (FB: The Crimes of Grindelwald) combines classic songs of Tchaikovsky with modern songs and technology to create a symphony of sweetness that only highlights the stunning and vibrant visuals.
     However, this story does have a lot of room for improvement, specifically in the script. Backstories are incomplete, some questions are left unanswered, character development is surprisingly weak and the characters with less screen time feel even flatter. This is a Disney film mainly aimed at kids and while it is a bit cheesy, it is still an enjoyable film for the whole family.
     Mackenzie Foy (Twilight: Breaking Dawn) does a good job in playing the young and inventive Clara.  Jayden Fowora-Knight (Ready Player One) was impressive in his first real role as the "Nutcracker" Phillip. Keira Knightley (Colette) is a stand out as the Sugar Plum Fairy with her unique voice and mannerisms. Helen Mirren (Catherine the Great) as Mother Ginger, Morgan Freeman (Alpha) as Drosselmeyer, Richard E Grant (Can You Ever Forgive Me?) as Shiver and Eugenio Derbez (Overboard) as Hawthorne are good but also highly underused.  Misty Copeland’s role is very small but unforgettable as the Ballerina Princess. The designs of all the characters are wonderful but the filmmakers did a lackluster job in using most of them.

     Overall, The Nutcracker and The Four Realms (2018) is not a perfect film. The costumes are vibrant, the sets are stunning, and the music is nostalgic but with most of the focus aimed at the visuals, the story and characters took a hit as a result. The story was cheesy and could have been improved a good deal, and most of the characters were underused. One endearing quality about the story is that it is not based on the ballet, nor does it claim to be, but rather it is based on its original dark roots by E.T.A Hoffmann. This is a Disney film more aimed at kids, who I believe will find this film enjoyable.

"It's Christmas Eve. A time of mystery, expectations, who knows what might happen?"
- Drosselmeyer [from teaser trailer]

Final Vote ---  7 of 10 stars

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Movies Similar 
The 10th Kingdom Mini Series (2000)
Barbie in the Nutcracker (2001)
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005)
The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (2008)
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010)
Cinderella (2015)
The Golden Compass (2007)
The Huntsman: Winter War (2016)
Into the Woods (2014)
Jack the Giant Slayer (2013)
Legend (1986)
Maleficent (2014)
Maleficent 2 (TBA)
Mirror Mirror (2012)
The Nutcracker Prince (1990)
Nutcracker: The Motion Picture (1986)
Oz the Great and Powerful (2013)
Pan (2015)
Snow White (2001)
Snow White and the Huntsman (2012)
Stardust (2007)

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