Originally released in theaters last November, those behind Disney’s The Nutcracker and the Four Realms clearly hoped to be destination viewing for the many of us who count a viewing of Tchaikovsky’s ballet as tradition. Based on the original short story “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King” by E.T.A. Hoffman and the Nutcracker Ballet, Disney brings the classic fairytale into the modern era with good intentions, and beauty to spare, unfortunately, as a whole, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms is surprisingly dull.
The story follows Clara Stahlbaum (Mackenzie Foy, Interstellar), the middle child of an aristocratic family in Victorian England. Clara is at odds with her father (Matthew Macfayden) over how differently both are dealing with the death of her mother, Marie (Anna Madeley). While attending a Christmas Eve party at the home of her godfather, Drosselmeyer (Morgan Freeman), she ends up following a path that leads her to the mysterious Four Realms.
Once there, Clara meets a Nutcracker soldier named Phillip (Jayden Fowora-Knight), who informs her that her mother is queen of the land—making Clara a princess. Upon reaching the palace at the center of the realms, Clara is introduced to the regents of three of the realms. Hawthorne (Eugenio Derbez), the regent of the Realm of Flowers; Shiver (Richard E. Grant), the regent of the Realm of Snowflakes; and Sugar Plum (Keira Knightley, Collateral Beauty), the regent of the Realm of Sweets. She is told that the fourth regent, Mother Ginger (Helen Mirren, Trumbo) of the Realm of Amusements, has been banished for starting a war among the realms. However, as Clara works to save the world her mother loved so much, she learns that everything isn’t as it seems.
The Nutcracker and the Four Realms is a visual stunner and a marvel of special effects, but the film lacks spark. The only exception is Keira Knightley’s Sugar Plum. Her devilish, fun, occasionally over-the-top take on the character livens things up whenever she appears onscreen. The screenplay adapted by newcomer Ashleigh Powell and Tom McCarthy (Christopher Robin) gives the talented secondary cast little to do. This lack of involvement prevents us from ever truly becoming invested in any of the characters. The lack of cohesion in the story may have also been affected using two very different directors on the movie. Lasse Hallström directed principal photography of the movie, while Joe Johnston spent a month on re-shoots.
The visuals nearly erase the narrative issues. the production design of Guy Hendrix Dyas and the costumes by Jenny Beavan are a standout. The iconic Tchaikovsky music is played early and throughout the film, often teased in, and blended with, new music from James Newton Howard. For those wanting ballet, the wonderful Misty Copeland performs a couple of times, but I was expecting her to have a more central role in the production. The Nutcrack and the Four Realms doesn’t quite deliver as much as id hoped, but the exceptional visuals and sweet, if flawed story is still worthy family entertainment.
Presented in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio, Disney’s 1080p Blu-ray looks fantastic. Sharpness is excellent with a nice level of delineation. There are no apparent flaws throughout the presentation. Blacks are inky, while the bold color palette shows a nice amount of depth and clarity. Fans should be very pleased with this presentation.
The DTS-HD MA 7.1 soundtrack makes excellent use of the entire soundscape, creating an enveloping experience. The track is well mixed, emphasizing music and effects when appropriate, without ever disrupting the clean, clear and concise dialogue.
English SDH, Spanish, and French subtitles are included.
The following extras are available:
- On Pointe (HD, 4:36) Ballet star Misty Copeland discusses her participation in the film. Choreographer Liam Scarlett, actor Mackenzie Foy and dancer Sergei Polunin also chime in.
- Unwrapping The Nutcracker and the Four Realms (HD, 7:08) Cast and crew discuss production design, set design, costumes and how it all contributes to the film’s themes.
- Deleted Scenes (HD, 4:04 total) Included are The Stahlbaums Arrive; Follow Your Ribbon; Clara Asks About Her Mother; Left, Left, Left, Left, Left; and Out With the Old.
- Music Video (HD, 4:23) “Fall On Me” Performed by Andrea Bocelli Featuring Matteo Bocelli.
- Music Video (HD, 4:06) “The Nutcracker Suite” performed by Lang Lang.
- DVD copy of the film.
- Digital HD.
Movie title: The Nutcracker and the Four Realms (2018)
Director(s): Lasse Hallström , Joe Johnston
Actor(s): Keira Knightley , Morgan Freeman , Matthew Macfadyen , Mackenzie Foy , Helen Mirren , Sergei Polunin
Genre: Fantasy, Family, Adventure, Holiday