The Nutcracker and the Four Realms is a Disney film based in part on E T A Hoffmann’s 1816 story The Nutcracker and the Mouse King. A family dance scene as well as flashes of a ballerina dancing – particularly as the credits are rolling – indicate the famous Nutcracker ballet.
This version centres around one family – the Stahlbaums – and in particular younger daughter, Clara (Mackenzie Foy). Clara, like the rest of her family, is grieving the recent loss of her mother and Mr Stahlbaum’s (Matthew Macfadyen) wife. The action opens one Christmas eve when each of the children receives a gift from their late mother. Clara’s gift is an elaborately carved silver egg with a message that tells Clara ‘everything you need is inside’.
What ensues is a fantastical adventure in which the young Clara ‘finds’ herself, becomes the heroine, comes to terms with her mother’s death, and contributes to Disney’s eternal message that goodness is always found within oneself.
The make-believe world Clara enters is lovely and the sets and costumes are grand and gorgeous. Toys come alive, war with one another, and Clara leads them in a battle between good and evil that takes place in the fourth realm. She uses her natural science brain to solve mechanical problems, an aspect that makes her an interesting and feisty heroine.
But when Foy is not leading soldiers in battle she minces around with her arms out to the side like a ballerina, delivering lines like a wooden puppet. Keira Knightly, who has an interesting role as Sugar Plum, is irritating. She is awkward throughout and fails to give her character any kind of depth. These aspects and a few holes in the script detract greatly from the depth and pace of what is otherwise a wonderfully imaginative children’s story.
Despite these problems The Nutcracker and the Four Realms is still worth seeing. It opened at cinemas in South Africa on 2 November 2018.