Magic Story Spoilt

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.

The Hundred-Foot Journey is not too sentimental after all

A review by Brenda Daniels

I had avoided the preview of this film for fear that it might be too sentimental. Now that The Hundred-Foot Journey is on circuit and I have seen it, I can confirm that it is indeed a glossy, unrealistically idyllic, too-earnest movie that glories in the ultimate innate goodness of human beings.

But it is saved from sentimentality by the ongoing rivalry between the main characters, the French scenery is beautiful to look at, and the story is a diverting, funny one that ends happily. I enjoyed it after all.

Hassan (Manish Dayal) has always had a special affinity for food. This gift is nurtured by his mother and Hassan learns early on to cook in the family restaurant in Bombay. Unfortunately, disaster strikes and Hassan’s mother is killed and their business burned to the ground. The remaining family members set off for Europe to see if life will be kinder to them there.

Fateful circumstances lead them to the quaint and beautiful village of Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val in France. Here the family of six – headed by Papa (an entertaining Om Puri) – set up a glitzy Indian restaurant – right across the road (in fact only one-hundred feet away) from the very posh, Michelin-star-rated French restaurant owned and run by snooty Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren).

The Kadam family’s arrival stirs up prejudice amongst the townspeople and intense competition in Madame Mallory herself. A series of funny incidents occur, with both sides determined not to give in.

In the meantime Hassan develops a relationship with one of Madame Mallory’s cooks, Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon), and hones his cooking skills. Togetherness and acceptance win out in the end and teach the characters a lesson.

The Hundred-Foot Journey is currently showing at Cinema Nouveau Theatres in South Africa.

Om Puri

Om Puri plays Papa in The Hundred Foot Journey. Photo: Creative Commons