Disney fantasy revises ‘The Nutcracker’
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.