Lasse Hallström, Joe Johnston (director)
1h 39min (length)
01 November 2018 (released)
08 November 2018
The team behind The Nutcracker and the Four Realms pull out all the Christmas stops in their retelling of the classic tale, The Nutcracker and the Mouse King.
Think a pine forest covered in a blanket of snow, toys that have come to life and a tingly, jingly music score.
When young Clara Stahlbaum (Mackenzie Foy) and her siblings are gifted special presents on Christmas eve by their father (Matthew Macfadyen), an instruction from his late wife, our heroine is left frustrated that she can't get into the silver egg because it seems her mother forgot to include the key.
Later, at a party thrown by her godfather Drosselmeyer (Morgan Freeman), a great inventor, Clara slips away to find the man himself to ask for his help. After confiding in Clara what a clever inventor her mum was, Drosselmeyer goes on to present all the children at his party with a gift - only they must find it themselves by following a thread with their name on.
Clara's gold thread leads her into dark and strange parts of her godfather's mansion until eventually, she finds herself outside in a snowy forest. Stepping out onto the fresh blanket of snow, she spies her key dangling from a tree, but as quickly as she lays eyes on it, a spunky mouse snatches it and runs off with it, leading a determined Clara on a literal cat and mouse chase through the woods, until she's stopped in her tracks by a barrier blocking the bridge the mouse has just run across.
It's here she meets the nutcracker (Jayden Fowora-Knight) guarding the bridge, who helps her navigate the realms of this magical kingdom, which she later discovers her mother Marie, the kingdom's queen, stumbled upon many years ago.
Welcomed with open arms, Princess Clara quickly learns about the Land of Snowflakes, Land of Flowers, and Land of Sweets, and the ominous and banished Fourth Realm, ruled by ousted Mother Ginger (Helen Mirren). She bonds with Sugar Plum (Keira Knightley), the head of the Land of Sweets, and vows to help fight to save the magical realms from the evil clutches of Mother Ginger. However, all is not what it seems, and Clara soon finds she must fight even harder to keep her mother's dream alive.
If you're after a festive film which looks gorgeous and sounds like a dream then The Nutcracker and the Four Realms really ticks those boxes. Directed by Lasse Hallstrom and written by Ashleigh Powell, with Joe Johnston directing the reshoots written by Tom McCarthy, this film showcases scenes and costumes which are sumptuous and exquisite.
The score, including the iconic music from Tchaikovsky's ballet, is just as magical, and ballerina Misty Copeland's scenes are breathtaking.
Another highlight is the diversity in the cast, from Misty and newcomer Jayden, to Mexican actor Eugenio Derbez as Hawthorne.
Unfortunately, a lot of the acting is stiffer than the toy soldiers featured, with even the combined star power of Freeman, Knightley, and Mirren failing to save it. While the first act is set in the stuffy world of upper-class Victorian London, the wooden performances continue long into the film. Comic relief comes in the form of British comedians Omid Djalili and Jack Whitehall, who both do a good job from distracting the viewer from the school play-like acting with their funny performances in the few scenes they have. Richard E. Grant, as Shiver, ruler of the Land of Snowflakes, is also good, though underused.
The story is also syrupy sweet, and, although made for a Disney audience, could have done with a bit more darkness.