The Sugar Plum Fairy as mentor
The Sugar Plum Fairy as mentor

MOVIE REVIEW: Disney’s twist on classic story

A CLASSIC Christmas story beloved by generations of fans, The Nutcracker has a special place in a lot of people's hearts.

For many of them, going along to the ballet, set to Tchaikovsky's stirring suite is an annual tradition. For those people, Disney's The Nutcracker and the Four Realms may prove to be disappointing.

There's not much actual ballet in the film, with American prima ballerina Misty Copeland lacing up for a five-minute dance interlude, and a few extra twirls in the end credits. For ballet diehards, this isn't going to be enough.

But if you're someone who finds classical dance a little snooze-inducing, the reprieve from any extended ballet will be a welcome twist to keep your head upright and not lolling around, barely stifling that yawn.

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms is very much a version of the story as imagined by Disney, designed to please preteens while not offending the parents forced to go along.

And it's a perfectly amiable movie, with impressive visual sequences, dazzling costumes and a passable story.


Misty Copeland as the Ballerina Princess in the film’s short ode to ballet
Misty Copeland as the Ballerina Princess in the film’s short ode to ballet


A retelling of E.T.A. Hoffmann's short story "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King" and Marius Petipa's The Nutcracker, the film centres on young Clara Stahlbaum (Mackenzie Foy), a very clever girl whose mother, Marie, has recently died.

On Christmas Eve, her father Benjamin (Matthew Macfadyen) gives Clara and her two siblings their last Christmas gifts from their mother. Clara receives a golden egg with the promise that everything she'll ever need is inside - but it's locked and there's no key.

Later that night at her godfather Drosselmeyer's (Morgan Freeman) annual Christmas party, Clara, following a string that's supposed to lead to her present, walks through a portal and into another realm.


Dazzling costumes and a visual spectacle
Dazzling costumes and a visual spectacle


She meets a nutcracker soldier, Captain Philip Hoffman (Jayden Fowora-Knight), who helps her when she runs after a mouse who has snatched away the key that's designed to open her egg.

The other world she's entered is a magical land, the land of the four realms. At the palace, she meets the Sugar Plum Fairy (Keira Knightley), Hawthorne (Eugenio Derbez) and Shiver (Richard E. Grant), three of the four regents are locked in battle with a fourth, rogue regent, Mother Ginger (Helen Mirren).

She has a heretofore unknown connection to this land and she must find the confidence, through her grief, to finish out her adventure and restore peace.

A word of warning to purists: this story diverges from the original.

A message of empowerment, eventually
A message of empowerment, eventually


The Nutcracker and the Four Realms is exactly the kind of paint-by-numbers holiday movie that parents will inevitably see because it's there. There are two credited directors - Lasse Hallstrom and Joe Johnston - after the original helmer wasn't available for extensive reshoots but it's fairly coherent. There are no obvious signs of two directors' visions. And maybe that's because ultimately, it's Disney's candy-coloured vision.

It has an empowering message you can get behind, some pretty exciting sequences with the Mouse King, and there's a twist that most people will see coming.

Younger audiences will enjoy the bright colours and fun energy but it's unlikely to leave a lasting impression. Sometimes, that's enough. But don't expect it to become an instant favourite.

Rating: ★★★

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms is in cinemas from today.

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