A duff nut to crack...

Loughborough Echo - - FILM -

C HRIST­MAS comes but once a year and, thank­fully, so too does a grand folly like The Nutcracker And The Four Realms. In­spired by The Nutcracker bal­let and ETA Hoff­man’s short story The Nutcracker And The Mouse King, Lasse Hall­strom and Joe John­ston’s lav­ish adventure is a glit­ter­ing bauble: daz­zling to the eye but com­pletely hol­low.

Gor­geous pro­duc­tion de­sign, Jenny Bea­van’s rav­ish­ing cos­tumes and a mi­asma of eye-pop­ping dig­i­tal ef­fects, cou­pled with a starry cast in­clud­ing Os­car win­ners Dame He­len Mir­ren and Mor­gan Free­man, come with a price tag in ex­cess of £100m.

Cine­matog­ra­pher Li­nus Sand­gren cap­tures ev­ery lux­u­ri­ous flour­ish of cre­ative en­deav­our in his sweep­ing cam­er­a­work, in­clud­ing a pro­tracted the­atri­cal se­quence fea­tur­ing Amer­i­can Bal­let Theatre’s prin­ci­pal dancer Misty Copeland which pirou­ettes tan­ta­lis­ingly close to his Os­car-win­ning vir­tu­os­ity on La La Land.

Sug­ary sen­ti­ment per­vades ev­ery page of Ash­leigh Pow­ell’s mud­dled script and James New­ton Howard’s lush score, which in­cor­po­rates ex­cerpts from Tchaikovsky’s bal­let in­clud­ing the un­mis­tak­able pit­ter pat­ter of Dance Of The Sugar Plum Fairy.

Clara Stahlbaum (Macken­zie Foy) re­tires to her clock­work in­ven­tions in the at­tic fol­low­ing the death of her mother (Anna Made­ley). Fa­ther (Matthew Mac­fadyen) is choked with grief and un­able to buoy the spir­its of Clara and sib­lings Louise (El­lie Bam­ber) and Fritz (Tom Sweet) in their dark­est hour.

The fam­ily ad­heres to tra­di­tion and at­tends the Christ­mas ball thrown by the children’s god­fa­ther, Drosselmeyer (Free­man). He ten­derly dis­patches Clara to the gar­den for her pre­sent.

She fol­lows a length of twine tied to the band­stand and emerges in a snow-laden wonderland – the gate­way to four realms that ex­ist along­side our own. Sugar Plum (Keira Knight­ley) from the land of sweets, Shiver (Richard E Grant) from the land of snowflakes and Hawthorne (Eu­ge­nio Der­bez) from the land of flow­ers, pre­side over three of these king­doms in bliss­ful har­mony.

Alas, the fourth realm – the land of amuse­ments – is the de­cay­ing do­main of Mother Ginger (Mir­ren). She has de­clared war on her neigh­bours and is mar­shalling an army of ver­min.

“Mother Ginger be­gan this war. I hope you’ll be the one to end it,” smiles Sugar Plum, ca­jol­ing Clara into bat­tle along­side a hand­some soldier called Phillip ( Jay­den Fowora-Knight).

The Nutcracker And The Four Realms is bloated and heavy-handed in ev­ery re­spect ex­cept for char­ac­ter­i­sa­tion, which is painfully weak.

Foy works tire­lessly to ground her teenage hero­ine’s rites of pas­sage in de­spair and self-doubt but any sub­tleties are over­whelmed by the ex­pen­sive pan­tomime whirling around her.

Macken­zie Foy as Clara and Keira Knight­ley as The Sugar Plum Fairy THE NUTCRACKER AND THE FOUR REALMS (PG) ★★ ★★★

He­len Mir­ren as Mother Ginger

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