Dis­ney fan­tasy re­vises ‘The Nutcracker’

The Fresno Bee (Sunday) - - On Tv - BY JAY BOBBIN

A big el­e­ment that has kept the Tchaikovsky-scored bal­let “The Nutcracker” such a hol­i­day-sea­son tra­di­tion is its sim­ple pleasures, known both from live pro­duc­tions and past films that ba­si­cally have trained cam­eras on the stage ver­sions and just let them roll.

Dis­ney now tries to go sev­eral steps be­yond that with “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms,” which takes the ba­sic el­e­ments of the piece and ex­pands on them in a mas­sive way. If you’ve never seen “The Nutcracker,” you’ll prob­a­bly find the re­sult more ac­cept­able than if you know and love the orig­i­nal work, since this ex­pands on it to a fault.

A Vic­to­rian young­ster played by Macken­zie Foy loses her mother, then re­luc­tantly goes to a Christ­mas gala where her toy­maker god­fa­ther – Mor­gan Free­man, who’s shown the touch of God on the screen be­fore – mag­i­cally sends her into those other realms, where she en­coun­ters such “Nutcracker” sta­ples as soldiers and mice.

They’re not quite as sim­plis­tic as in the clas­sic pre­sen­ta­tion, though, which is why it’s ad­vis­able for any­one get­ting their first dose of “The Nutcracker” here to also seek out a stag­ing of its in­spi­ra­tion. In­deed, it seems like there isn’t an op­por­tu­nity for lav­ish spe­cial ef­fects here that’s passed up ... the catch be­ing that “The Nutcracker” doesn’t need them. It’s an en­chant­ing ef­fort all by it­self, with­out the help of mod­ern tech­ni­cians.

It’s as if Dis­ney doesn’t trust that to be the case, so ev­ery­thing but the kitchen sink is thrown in vis­ually. (Ac­tu­ally, come to think of it, the kitchen sink might be in there.) Sure, the re­sult may well daz­zle young view­ers – which is ex­actly what Dis­ney ap­pears to be go­ing for here. For that, they may as well just see “A Wrinkle in Time” or any num­ber of other re­cent re­leases from the stu­dio, which get the same job done with­out mess­ing around with a gen­uinely time­less piece.

Macken­zie Foy

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