Missing that magic touch
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)