The Nutcracker is one of the biggest loves of my life, ever since I was a little girl in ballet class. I was in it many many times, including playing Clara in a watered down school play, but mostly just in various background parts (angel, sweet, soldier, party goer). I’ve seen countless productions of all styles, skill levels, and pedigrees. I’ve collected Nutcrackers since my first performance, and I try to see one production a year live when possible. I know this story inside and out, and just a few notes of any of the songs can trigger a rush of memories.
Given how much weight this carries for me, I tried to keep an open mind going into The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, knowing that it was meant to be a complete re imagining of the story I hold so dear. However, when the film started with the same overture, I tensed up. This was gonna be harder than I expected.
The film starts with Clara and her family on Christmas Eve, except her mom’s dead and now she has a sister in addition to her brother. The party is at Godfather Drosselmyer’s house (I’m not even gonna try and spell that right, but Morgan Freeman plays him), and the family goes despite their still recent grief. One thing leads to another, blah blah blah, and Clara finds herself alone in the kingdom of the four realms, a land her mother once ruled as queen. She finds that one realm is at war with the others, and she’s the only one with the ability to unite them all.
I was desperately trying to keep this idea separate from The Nutcracker, but what made it different is that so much of Tchaikovsky’s score is sprinkled in–and all of the songs are in the wrong place. The casual audience member might not notice, but for me it was exceptionally jarring. Again, I have nearly 30 years of memories tied into those songs, so it’s hard to let them go.
The film itself was fine. Mostly simplistic and predictable sentimental kids stuff. The little ones might eat up this world like sugar plums, but the adults will long for a cotton candy pillow to nap on.
There were, however, two saving graces for me. One, Keira Knightly was absolutely divine as the Sugar Plum Fairy. I adored every second we saw her and her sparkly personality and bubbly sweet voice. The second, ballerina extraordinaire Misty Copeland had a sequence in the middle of the film and again over the end credits. I’ve seen bits of her dancing before, but never on full display like this, and she was absolutely captivating. Her ballet alone was worth the price of admission for me. But let’s be real, I’d rather have watched her perform the actual Nutcracker ballet
The Nutcracker and the Four Realms – \m/ \m/ \n