Business rating: 1 star
Star cast: Elle Fanning, Charlie Rowe, Aaron Michael Drozin, Nathan Lane.
What’s Good: The child actors’ performances; the excellent visual effects.
What’s Bad: The average screenplay; the lack of emotions.
Verdict: The Nutcracker will not be able to crack it at the Indian box-office.
Loo break: Several in the second half.
Watch or Not? Only if your kids insist. Or maybe not even then…
Nutcracker Holdings and HCC Media Group’s The Nutcracker, based on a Russian ballet by the same name, is a fantasy about a small girl’s dream of a kingdom full of magical beings.
Nine-year-old Mary (Elle Fanning) lives in Vienna with her father (Richard E. Grant), mother (Yulia Visotskaya) and young brother, Max (Aaron Michael Drozin). On Christmas Eve, Mary’s parents leave home while her father’s uncle, Uncle Albert (Nathan Lane), comes over to spend the evening with the kids. Albert brings with him a dollhouse, a wooden nutcracker doll and lots of fantastic stories. Albert tells Mary that she can bring to life whatever she wants by using the power of her imagination. Mary takes to the nutcracker doll immediately but Max hates it. Listening to Uncle Albert’s stories, the kids go off to sleep.
Soon, Mary wakes up to find the nutcracker (voice of Shirley Henderson) talking to her. The nutcracker tells Mary that his name is NC and that he must plan against the invasion of the Rat Queen (Frances de la Tour). Mary accompanies NC to a room in her house where the dollhouse and the Christmas tree are kept. She discovers that the toys in the dollhouse have all assumed human form. Also, everything has become ten times larger. NC introduces Mary to the Snow Fairy (Yulia Visotskaya), who casts a spell on NC, turning him into a young Prince (Charlie Rowe). The Prince now tells Mary about his faraway kingdom, which has been taken over by the Rat Queen (Frances de la Tour) and her son, the Rat King (John Turturro). It is the Rat Queen who had turned the Prince into a nutcracker in order to take over his kingdom. In the meantime, the Rat King is burning up all toys in the kingdom in a huge furnace so that he can create a dark cloud of smoke to keep the sunlight out. He also has a devious plan to ‘rat’ify the human race.
As the Prince comes to the end of his story, the Rat King’s minions come and eat at the root of the Christmas Tree, atop which Mary and the Prince are lodged. As the tree falls, Mary falls off her bed and wakes up. But she knows that all that just happened was not a dream. But Max and her parents refuse to believe her. Only Uncle Albert is supportive. What happens to Mary’s dream? Do her parents believe her story? What becomes of the Prince’s kingdom and his plan to recapture his kingdom from the Rat King? The rest of the film answers these questions.
Story and Screenplay – The Nutcracker Review
Andrey Konchalovsky and Chris Solimine’s screenplay will appeal to the children only. To their credit, they have created a fascinating dream world full of magical toys which assume human form. The Rat King and his Nazi-like army of rat-humans are funny. However, the screenplay drags at places, especially in the second half. Moreover, the tragedy of the toys being burnt at the behest of a cruel king fails to evoke emotions. The film has eight songs (music by Piotr Tchaikovosky and lyrics by Tim Rice) that are short and sweet. The strength of the film, more or less, lies in the excellent visual effects and the endearing concept of a dream world. Apart from that, the on-screen adaptation of the famous Russian ballet fails to charm.
Star Performances – The Nutcracker Review
Elle Fanning’s performance stands out; she is completely believable as the awe-struck young girl. Charlie Rowe, as the courageous prince, is also good. So is Aaron Michael Drozin as Mary’s bratty young brother. Nathan Lane, as Uncle Albert, brings a smile to the viewer’s face. John Turturro and Frances de la Tour also suit the roles of the Rat royalty. Richard E. Grant and Yuliya Vysotskaya are okay.
Direction and Visual Effects – The Nutcracker Review
Andrei Konchalovsky’s direction is patchy. Though he satisfies the audience’s curiosity in the first half of the film, his handling of the latter half is a letdown. Mike Southon’s camerawork, given the amount of visual effects in the film, is commendable. Editing, by Mathieu Bélanger and Andrew Glen, is just okay. Eduard Artemiev’s background score is alright.
The Final Word
All in all, The Nutcracker makes for a strictly average fare. Given the fate of most children’s films in India, one cannot expect the film to create any magic at the box-office windows.