Disney's new film The Nutcracker and the Four Realms has as much to do with Marius Petipa's classic The Nutcracker Ballet as the animation Dumbo has to do with a real circus.  There is beautiful ballet dancing featuring the famous ballerina Misty Copeland, and there are lovely instrumental music pieces.  There is a young girl as the lead and the character of a nutcracker and a mouse king, but that is where most of the similarities end.
This story has Clara (Mackenzie Foy) and her family dealing with the death of their mother Marie (Anna Madeley).  This is their first Christmas without her.  They open their early Christmas gifts from their mother before a party they are to attend.  She has given her favorite party dress to Louise (Ellie Bamber), the eldest daughter.  There is a box of tin soldiers for Fritz (Tom Sweet), her son who is the youngest. And to her middle child that is most like her in mind and temperament, she has given Clara a beautiful silver egg shaped box with a note that says “Everything you need is inside.”
Unfortunately, it’s missing the one of a kind key that will unlock the gift.   
Though the gifts make them miss their late mother even more, their father Mr. Stahlbaum (Matthew Macfadyen) insists they uphold tradition and takes them to Drosselmeyer’s (Morgan Freeman) annual holiday party.  He was the man that raised her mother when she was orphaned at a young age and also Clara's godfather.  He is a maker of all things magical and mechanical.  When the Christmas gifts are presented at the party, everyone must follow a thread that has their name on it and seeks out to find their gift.  Clara's is on a golden thread that she follows through the house down the hall into a dark corridor and comes out the other end of a tree into a snow-filled Wonderland (kind of like the children going through the closet to find Narnia).  The string leads Clara to the key she's needed for her gift, but it's snatched by a wicked little mouse that runs off with it before she can get it from him.  It's in this magical world that Clara encounters a nutcracker soldier named Philip (Jayden Fowora-Knight) and a gang of mice.  It is here that she also meets three of the four regents from the four realms.  Shiver (Richard E. Grant), head of the land of snowflakes; Hawthorne (Eugenio Derbez), head of the land of flowers; and Sugar Plum Fairy (Keira Knightley), head of the land of sweets.  Clara and Philip must brave the dark fourth realm, home of the tyrant mother Ginger (Helen Mirren) to retrieve Clara’s key and hopefully return harmony to the unstable world her mother created.
Be warned parents of very young children, because there are some scary moments of battle in the dark woods that may frighten the little ones.  Nothing that will scar them for life but it will make them cover their eyes.  
Overall, Disney’s The Nutcracker and the Four Realms misses the mark.  It was almost right.  It has a feeling that it was done by committee with all the rules of modern filmmaking boxes checked.  Loosely retool a classic story, check.  Use stunning visuals and top of the line cinematography, check.  Use a multiracial cast, check.  Make it “girl power” in theme, check.  Make it a classic film that everyone will add to their libraries, sorry no check in this box today.  I give this film a B- rating, good enough to see once but not a holiday tradition.
Directed by Lasse Hallstrom, Joe Johnston
Written By Ashleigh Powell, E.T.A. Hoffmann, Marius Petipa
Rated PG
Selig Rating B-
Running Time 1hr 30min
Family Fantasy
Wide Release November 2nd
Starring: Mackenzie Foy, Tom Sweet, Ellie Bamber, Matthew Macfadyen, Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren, Eugenio Derbez, Richard E. Grant, Keira Knightley
The Selig Rating Scale:
A – Excellent movie, well worth the price.
B – Good movie
C – OK movie
D – No need to rush. Save it for a rainy day.
F – Good that I saw it on the big screen but wish I hadn't paid for it.
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