The Nutcracker And The Four Realms Review

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms
Clara (Mackenzie Foy) has recently lost her mother. Searching for a key to the music box her mother left her, she discovers the magical Four Realms where Mother Ginger (Helen Mirren) has declared war on Sugar Plum (Keira Knightley) and the rest. Only Clara and a nutcracker soldier called Phillip (Jayden Fowora-Knight) can bring peace.

by Helen O'Hara |
Published on
Release Date:

02 Nov 2018

Original Title:

The Nutcracker And The Four Realms

Here's a film genetically engineered to appeal to the seven-year-old wannabe princess inside us all. So bathed in glitter and sparkle and candy it should come with a sugar warning, this has so much to dazzle the eye that you may need to stare at a nice white wall afterwards to recalibrate. But underneath the tulle there's a surprisingly coherent story, and some good character actors to add a little emotional depth.

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms

Our setting is a vision of Victorian London usually confined to a better class of Christmas card, full of glowing, candle-lit trees and absolutely no poverty. Our heroine Clara (Foy, a mini Anne Hathaway) is a refreshingly science-minded young lady who's mourning her mother and lashing out at her heartbroken father (Matthew Macfadyen, doing a lot with very little). Searching for the key to her mother’s legacy in her eccentric godfather’s (Morgan Freeman) house, she stumbles into a Narnia-resembling fantasy world of winter. There, she’s drawn into a conflict between the terrifying Mother Ginger (Mirren) and the saccharine Sugar Plum (Knightley) with only a plucky Nutcracker, Captain Phillip (likeable newcomer Fowora-Knight) to help.

It really will enchant little girls.

The costumes, sets and design are glorious, and there’s a mid-film ballet break starring prima donna Misty Copeland, so it’s an unalloyed treat for the eyes. Sometimes you may even wish for a little less plot so you can take it all in. But while the story shows signs of major chopping and changing — Joe Johnston and Lasse Hallström are both credited directors; Meera Syal pops up at the beginning and is never seen again — it just-about-coherently tells a tale about grief and loss and carrying on despite both.

When the film sticks close to that emotional through-line — and it largely does — it works, helped by a villain who's clearly having a whale of a time. Also, it really will enchant little girls. Imagine if someone took Frozen, threw in a bit more Cinderella and added six more spoonfuls of sugar on top. It won’t be for everyone, but for those with a cinematic sweet tooth it’s going to be a favourite.

As sweet as a sugar plum and only slightly more nutritious, this shows scars from a tumultuous road to the screen but still emerges as a whimsical, likeable fairy tale.
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