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The Nutcracker and the Four Realms will superficially lift your holiday spirits

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms is the perfect family-friendly, action-packed movie to watch during the holiday season. The film attempts to provide a twist to the classic tale of Clara and her Nutcracker. Actress Mackenzie Foy plays Clara Stahlbaum, a curious, scientifically inclined young girl who mourns the recent loss of her mother. On Christmas Eve, her father gives her a present from her mother: a mysterious box that can only be opened with a specific key. Instantly intrigued, Clara does everything in her power to find this key and honor her mother’s memory.

To find the key, Clara discovers a new world with beautifully, bizarrely dressed characters, one of which is a nutcracker soldier named Phillip (Jayden Fowora-Knight). She meets three leaders of the four realms, the Sugar Plum Fairy (Keira Knightley), Hawthorne (Eugenio Derbez) and Shiver (Richard E. Grant), who reveal that her mother was the queen of their land and actually had created it from her imagination. They ask her to help save it from being taken over by a daunting villain. During her nerve-wracking journey, Clara uses her bravery, scientific knowledge and love for her mother to stay practical in a world far from reality. Phillip stays by her side while she courageously fights for the product of her mother’s creativity.

Walking side-by-side, Clara and Philip stroll pass bowing citizens.

Foy’s innocent character acts honestly and bravely, and audiences can’t help but admire her. However, other characters aren’t as captivating. For example, Hawthorne and Shiver, the leaders of the flower and snowflake realm, are consistently oblivious and have no heartfelt connection with Clara. The Nutcracker also has the kindness and loyalty I would usually expect from a sidekick-soldier. By giving supporting characters little depth, their relationships on screen made the movie less entertaining. The initial villain, Mother Ginger (Helen Mirren), has a confusing and abrupt character development that can be hard to follow, but was more engaging to the audience with a deeper connection to Clara.

Holding on to a guiding string, Clara enters the four realms.

The movie employs tedious cliches, such as Clara declaring, “I guess I’m not in London anymore” upon her arrival to the four realms, an overused reference to Dorothy in Oz. Worn-out thematic topics appear throughout the film, sending messages including “believe in yourself” and “it’s acceptable to enjoy life after the death of a loved one.” Foy herself claimed that Clara is a “different” kind of Disney princess because she was just a regular girl before she became one; however, I felt that even this plot followed a similar storyline to that of princesses like Tiana and Mulan who started out as lower class people. Such cliches might be purposeful to reach a young audience, yet took away from the creativity I was expecting from a modern remake of an old story.

Playing the role of Ballerina, Misty Copeland acts out Clara’s mother’s arrival to the four realms.

Going into the theater, I was curious about how the movie would address the ballet aspect of the Nutcracker story. Misty Copeland played the Ballerina who acted out the story of Clara’s mother’s arrival to the Four Realms. Copeland is the first African-American woman to be named principal ballerina in 75 years at American Ballet Theatre and is endorsed by Estee Lauder, Oikos, Seiko, Boys & Girls Club of America and Under Armour. She only appeared for a short amount of time during that role and in the credit scene. I expected that ballet would be incorporated more fluidly throughout the movie, but I was disappointed in the lost potential with a widely loved story and the casting of such a famous ballerina.

Staring in the mirror, Clara tries out a regal appearance.

With stunningly elaborate sets and costume designs, there is no doubt that The Nutcracker and the Four Realms is visually pleasing. Clara’s connection to her mother serves as a heartwarming contrast to other thrilling but worrisome aspects of the film. Although the movie might not provide much entertainment to anyone above the age of 13, it is the perfect story to enjoy with grandparents and younger cousins as the holiday season approaches.

Created By
Julia Merron
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Photos courtesy of Rotten Tomatoes

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