‘The Nutcracker and the Four Realms’ review: Disney’s beautiful reimagining breathes life into a beloved holiday classic
Disney’s newest live-action film ‘The Nutcracker and the Four Realms’ is perfect for kids but lacks a very important central theme of the original story - the dancing
'The Nutcracker' is a story loved by many generations and Disney’s newest live-action film 'The Nutcracker and the Four Realms' is both a reimagining and sequel to the original. Disney’s newest adaptation of the film takes from both E. T. A. Hoffman’s original book and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s 'Nutcracker' ballet. However 'The Nutcracker and the Four Realms' is the most kid-friendly version, cutting out a lot of the dance sequences and replacing it with a story of a young girl going on a journey to discover herself and her mother’s past.
The newest version follows Clara (played by the delightful Mackenzie Roy), who is mourning the passing of her mother. Once again, it is Christmas Eve and each child gets a gift that their mother has left for them.
Clara receives a mysterious, beautiful box in the shape of an egg that needs a key to be opened but is nowhere to be found. When she visits her godfather Drosselmeyer (played by Morgan Freeman), he leads her into the magical world of the Four Realms to find the missing key.
In a parallel universe strikingly similar to Narnia, Clara quickly finds out that her mother was the queen of this land and she is her successor. Besides Narnia and of course the prior versions of this story, there is also a lot of similarities to 'The Wizard Of Oz' in not just the way the story is told but in the look of this new land. While the film may lack originality due to it’s parallels to other Disney classics, it adds layers of beauty and superb special effects that some of these films didn’t have.
After Clara embarks on her journey, she joins forces with a Nutcracker named Phillip (played by Jayden Fowora-Knight) who helps Clara retrieve this magical key from a seemingly evil, neighboring realm called The Land of Amusement ruled by an entity named Mother Ginger (played by Helen Mirren). Their initial attempt goes awry as they are almost killed by an army of killer mice and quickly return to the castle presiding over the other three realms. There Clara meets the leaders of the other realms including the leader of the Land of Sweets, Sugar Plum (played by Keira Knightly).
Sugar Plum tells Clara of their struggles, including a war with the Land of Amusement and it’s leader Mother Ginger. After Clara’s mother left the realms, everything fell apart and a war began that could kill them all.
They realize that the key Clara is looking for is also the key needed to create an army to end this war, or so Sugar Plum says. This then leads to an action-packed turn of events where Clara risks her life to save the land that her mother helped create.
The standout aspects of 'The Nutcracker and the Four Realms' are the makeup, costumes, set and special effects. The film is truly one of the most aesthetically beautiful films that Disney has ever done, which is saying a lot. Especially given that the holiday season is right around the corner, this is the perfect film to enjoy with the family on the big screen.
Additionally, Roy’s performance is that of a star in the making. While many might recognize her from being Renesmee from the 'Twilight' franchise, this is truly her breakout role. Roy plays Clara with a sense of honesty, purity, and sadness making the audience root for her throughout the film.
Knightley’s performance is also great, showing us a side of her we have never really seen before. That said, the two other A-list actors in the film, Freeman and Miren, do not get nearly enough screen time. To that point, it almost seemed as though they used the two actors as little as possible, likely for budgetary reasons, but enough so they could be a part of promoting the film.
The biggest complaint, however, is the film didn’t have all that much dancing, which is a central theme in every imaging of 'The Nutcracker' story. There are just a couple of really beautiful dance sequences weaved into the film, but it doesn’t always make that much sense and feels forced. If you didn’t know what 'The Nutcracker' was about, one might even question why the dancing was of such importance.
Overall, 'The Nutcracker and the Four Realms' is the perfect family film for the holiday season and will be released nationwide on November 2.