Miss­ing that magic touch

Dumfries & Galloway Standard - - THE WEEKEND TICKET -

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms (PG)

It’s not of­ten Dis­ney doesn’t de­liver; whether an­i­ma­tion or live-ac­tion, their big screen out­ings are nor­mally at least en­joy­able.

Sadly, this re-telling of E.T. A. Hoff­mann’s short story The Nutcracker and the Mouse King and Mar­ius Petipa’s The Nutcracker is sorely lack­ing the stu­dio’s trade­mark magic.

The story is a fa­mil­iar one as young­ster Clara (Macken­zie Foy) is trans­ported into a fan­tasy-filled world when she gets her hands on a mys­te­ri­ous key.

So far so Alice in Won­der­land but Dis­ney’s Nutcracker could’ve done with em­brac­ing the kook­i­ness and darker tone run­ning through­out their take on the Lewis Car­roll fairy­tale as this is shal­low, day-glow fare in com­par­i­son.

Which is a shame as Foy does some pow­er­ful work as our guid­ing light; she isn’t just a wideeyed pres­ence swept up in her plight but a de­ter­mined, in­tel­li­gent young woman wor­thy of a more mod­ern hero­ine.

Co-di­rec­tors Lasse Hall­ström and Joe John­ston also do a good job with the vi­su­als as every scene is burst­ing with colour and the cos­tumes and sets look like they must have cost a for­tune to whip up.

Ev­ery­thing else, though, ei­ther misses the mark or feels re­cy­cled from ear­lier, su­pe­rior Dis­ney out­ings.

He­len Mir­ren’s Mother Gin­ger doesn’t evoke enough men­ace to rate as one of the Mouse House’s iconic bad­dies and the all-over-the­p­lace dynamic sees an un­der-utilised Mor­gan Free­man (Drosselmeyer) share a billing with a grat­ing Jack White­hall (Har­lequin) and Omid Djalili (Cav­a­lier).

Speak­ing of grat­ing, Keira Knight­ley’s Sugar Plum and her su­per­sonic-like vo­cal chords will leave you wish­ing you’d taken some earplugs along to the cin­ema – and have you reach­ing for a cou­ple of painkillers af­ter­wards!

Ashleigh Powell makes her writ­ing de­but here and the story of­fers so lit­tle you’d be for­given for won­der­ing if her script was penned on a postage stamp.

Once the key pieces are put in place, the movie coasts along hop­ing that the big­ger names among the cast and the bub­blegum vi­su­als will dis­tract from the fact noth­ing of con­se­quence is hap­pen­ing.

Given the Nutcracker’s bal­let be­gin­nings, there’s also a crim­i­nal lack of danc­ing or mu­si­cal se­quences that not even the in­clu­sion of fa­mil­iar, and wel­come, Tchaikovsky notes can save.

We go to a Dis­ney film to see peo­ple tri­umph against the odds, fun sec­ondary char­ac­ters, jaw-drop­ping mag­i­cal mo­ments and get swept up in catchy tunes.

The Nutcracker is miss­ing all but the first of those el­e­ments and also doesn’t have the courage to in­ject a true sense of dan­ger that most of the stu­dio’s best flicks are renowned for.

Let’s hope that next month’s Mary Pop­pins Re­turns can sup­ply the won­der and wow fac­tor Dis­ney fans have come to ex­pect.

Fan­tasy friends Foy (Clara) and Knight­ley (Sugar Plum Fairy)

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