Review: The Nutcracker and the Four Realms

by Kai Charles

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms is a visually appealing cinematic experience, with a solid story, and the comfortable magical and emotional touchstones that fans expect from a Disney production. The plot does not benefit from a deep examination, but delivers a solid foundation for a stellar cast. 

Many found The Nutcracker an interesting choice for Walt Disney Studios when it was first announced, but die-hard fans of the ballet in all its forms (myself included) have been excited to see what Disney would do with this holiday classic.

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms Synopsis

Young Clara (MacKenzie Foy) is in search of a key to a Christmas gift left to her by her late mother. The gift is the only thing that motivates Clara to visit her godfather Drosselmeyer’s (Morgan Freeman) holiday party. Clara gains info on her gift and in the process is transported to a parallel world where she meets a young soldier named Phillip (Jayden Fowora-Knight). She also meets the regents who preside over three Realms: The Land of Snowflakes, The Land of Flowers and The Land of Sweets. To save the kingdom, Clara and Phillip must face the ominous fourth Realm and its ruler Mother Ginger (Helen Mirren). 

Directors Joe Johnston and Lasse Hallström could have taken several different paths to adapt this production. They chose to ground the story in traditional Disney tropes with a healthy portion of female empowerment and Representation.

The film is visually stunning from the opening scenes. The audience experiences a birds-eye view of a European city in the midst of the Christmas season. From this expansive view the story then turns to focus on young Clara, portrayed by actress Mackenzie Foy. When we meet Clara she is triggering a mouse trap and sharing the scientific design of it with her young brother Fritz.

The momentary joy of her experiment is dimmed by her father’s insistence that the family attend a Holiday party. Clara does not feel like celebrating. She and her family are keenly feeling the loss of their mother this Christmas and only the potential to find a special key that unlocks a gift Clara’s mother left her can entice her to attend her Godfather Drosselmeyer’s party.

From the party Clara is transported to the Four Realms and learns her mother’s influence has shaped the lives of the inhabitants of the Kingdom’s, and her loss is felt as keenly in their world as in hers. Clara undertakes a journey to restore balance to the realms with assistance of a Nutcracker of the realm (Jayden Fowora-Knight).

The Music

The Four Realms deftly pays homage to the visual and musical touchstones of its source material. James Newton Howard smartly leans heavily on the source music from the Ballet. This leads to viewers noticing the classic themes in the film much more than the original music created for the film. The one standout song in the film is the gorgeous Fall On Me performed by Andrea and Matteo Bocelli. This song accompanies a Ballet performance during the credits.

This film is a visual feast and I was so pleased to see so much representation amongst the cast, notably Misty Copeland who is a scene stealer as the Ballerina Princess. The entire cast are stellar though some of them don’t get much screen time, the overall atmosphere of the film is enhanced by their presence. 

The Nutcracker and The Four Realms opens in U.S. theaters everywhere on November 2, 2018. Enjoy the visual and musical feast!

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