Dis­ney’s The Nutcracker and the Four Realms is a feast for the eyes star­ring Macken­zie Foy, Keira Knight­ley and He­len Mir­ren but in terms of over­all sto­ry­telling, the film­mak­ers do very lit­tle with a lot

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - PLAY - VICKY ROACH

Dis­ney’s live-ac­tion hero­ines don’t ap­pear to be evolv­ing as fast as their an­i­mated coun­ter­parts. Along­side Frozen’s heart-melt­ing princesses and Moana’s oceanic ad­ven­turer, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms’ cen­tral char­ac­ter feels con­strained.

Corsets could well be part of the prob­lem. But she’s not helped by a de­riv­a­tive sto­ry­line that bor­rows lib­er­ally from beloved chil­dren’s clas­sics such as The Chron­i­cles of Nar­nia and Alice in Won­der­land.

It’s al­most as if the screen­writ­ing is di­min­ish­ing in in­verse pro­por­tion to the so­phis­ti­ca­tion of the tech­nol­ogy.

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms’ swoop­ing, birdof-prey per­spec­tive open­ing shot is a heart-stop­per. And the cos­tume and pro­duc­tion de­sign is just as spec­tac­u­lar, as one would ex­pect from a $180 mil­lion Dis­ney Christ­mas con­fec­tion.

But in terms of the over­all sto­ry­telling, the film­mak­ers do very lit­tle with a lot. And the char­ac­ters – with the ex­cep­tion of Keira Knight­ley’s scene-steal­ing Sugar Plum Fairy and He­len Mir­ren’s spicy Mother Gin­ger – are about as hol­low as the tin sol­diers the film’s vil­lain brings to life.

Given the joint di­rect­ing credit, it’s hard to know where the re­spon­si­bil­ity lies – Joe John­ston ( Cap­tain Amer­ica: The First Avenger) over­saw 32 days of reshoots when the orig­i­nal helms­man, Lasse Hall­strom, was un­avail­able. But it seems likely that the prob­lems orig­i­nated in the ini­tial con­cept.

Tchaikovsky’s fa­mil­iar score and Misty Copeland’s clas­sic dance per­for­mances are the clos­est The Four Realms gets to its source ma­te­rial. The plot – in which the cen­tral char­ac­ter fol­lows a mouse into a mag­i­cal par­al­lel world – feels about as dis­pos­able as a masspro­duced stock­ing filler.

When the film opens, Clara (Macken­zie Foy) is about to spend her first Christ­mas with­out her mother (whose death is han­dled sen­si­tively). Des­per­ate to un­lock the sil­ver egg she has been be­queathed, Clara pur­sues the key-steal­ing ro­dent into the Four Realms, where she is per­suaded by Knight­ley’s Sugar Plum Fairy to take on the evil Mother Gin­ger. At this point, there’s a sur­prise twist.

The Four Realms boasts a self-re­liant heroine and two pow­er­ful sup­port­ing fe­male char­ac­ters. The other two realm re­gents – flow­ery Hawthorne (Eu­ge­nio Der­bez) and icicle-crusted Shiver (Richard E Grant) – are un­usu­ally in­sipid. And the nutcracker (Jay­den FoworaKnight) is re­duced to the role of hand­bag prince.

Con­tem­po­rary au­di­ences have be­come ac­cus­tomed to self-em­pow­er­ment sto­ries that are a bit more the­mat­i­cally sub­stan­tial. The Nutcracker and the Four Realms is now show­ing in cin­e­mas

Keira Knight­ley as the Sugar Plum Fairy and Macken­zie Foy as Clara in a scene from new Dis­ney of­fer­ing The Nutcracker and the Four Realms.

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