The Nutcracker and the Four Realms is another of Disney’s attempts to recapture the magic of classic stories through live-action remakes.
It follows along the same vein as Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland and its sequel, Alice Through the Looking Glass. As such, it is not surprising that that it shares many of the same issues. But first, to cover the good. Much like both Alice films, most of the visuals are very pleasant to look at. And, for the first half of the movie, there’s a strange charm to it. This first half is where the visuals are really allowed to shine, the main character is, if not compelling, at least enjoyable, and this is also where we get the most Morgan Freeman. Freeman has a relatively small part, and his performance comes off as fairly phoned-in but, in all honesty, Freeman could bring an enjoyable sentimentality simply by reading a phone book. I also do have to give this film credit for outright saying that the protagonist’s mother is dead rather than only implying it whenever the issue came up, as many similar movies tend to do.
The protagonist, Clara Stahlbaum, is played by Mackenzie Foy, best known for her role as Renesmee Cullen in the Twilight saga. Oddly enough, Foy carries the role rather well, bringing the character through in a likable way for the most part. The character does come off as whiny a few times, but that seems to come more from the writing. All things considered, she does rather well with what she’s been given. However, as mentioned before, the problems with the writing really begin to show up in the second half.
The enjoyable sense of whimsy that held up the first half is then buried by clichés and a poorly thought-out plot. This is also where Foy’s character comes off as a bit grating: there’s the cliché woe-as-me-I’m-not-special moment that every one of these movies seems to feel obliged to include, followed (of course) by the secondary character of course assuring her that she is indeed special and that their world would be lost without her. The problem with this is that nothing has been shown to really support this claim, her introduction doesn’t really seem to have caused serious changes, and nothing she’d done up to that point was really all that unique. In fact, the majority of scrapes she got herself into were resolved through the same secondary character telling her how important she is. This is particularly irritating because the foundation for an interesting, if archetypical, character is laid early on in a fascination and aptitude with technology, but the writer failed to include enough opportunities for these traits to properly develop.
I focus on the main character so much because the others are so forgetful, and as I said, the plot is almost entirely pointless. It heavily relies on what could barely be considered a twist in the third act. The so-called twist is the ancient cliché of a character supposedly allied to the protagonist suddenly betraying them; there is no buildup to it whatsoever, and the traitor’s motivations are both confused and not explored thoroughly enough. Not to mention that a flashback that can only be described as idiotic, creating a massive hole in the plot. The whole issue can best be summarized as an entirely enjoyable film up until it tries to move beyond a mere experience and actually have a plot.
All in all, three out of five stars
Wait for it to hit a streaming service.