The Nutcracker and the Four Realms: Keira Knightley can’t save Disney disaster

Review: Disney goes into overdrive with the Christmassy effects but squanders a top-notch cast

Trailer for Disney's live version of The Nutcracker.

Mackenzie Foy and Keira Knightly in The Nutcracker and the Four Realms. Photograph: Disney

Film Title: The Nutcracker and the Four Realms

Director: Lasse Hallström and Joe Johnston

Starring: Keira Knightley, Mackenzie Foy, Jayden Fowora-Knight, Eugenio Derbez, Matthew Macfadyen, Richard E. Grant, Misty Copeland, Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman

Genre: Family

Running Time: 99 min

Fri, Nov 2, 2018, 13:41


In Victorian London – or some version of it – Clara Stahlbaum (Mackenzie Foy) enlists the help of her godfather, Drosselmeyer (Morgan Freeman), to help open a trinket left to her by her late mother. On the hunt to find the relevant key, Clara is transported to another realm where the marvellous ballerina Misty Copeland reenacts her mother Marie’s hitherto unknown adventures and where existing idylls of sweets and snowflakes are menaced by Helen Mirren’s carnivalesque territory.

Perhaps it’s only natural that you can constantly hear the whirring in a film that features as many contraptions and clockwork doohickeys as The Nutcracker and the Four Realms. But that doesn’t make it anymore palatable.

In common with The Book of Henry – another ill-conceived, made-for-nobody movie – this latest Disney animation-to-live action translation (of a segment from Fantasia) opens in Rube Goldberg machine mode and continues in the same manner. With lots of unnecessary guff and diversions.

The art department perform heroics. It’s like everything on their Santa list came through. A Christmassy Kremlin palace surrounded by flower windmills. Luxe, floofy, plush fabrics. More owls! Hot air balloons! Super matchy, shiny, colour-coded outfits. Versailles on acid interiors.

Now if only someone had thought to write a script. Decent actors attempt to prop up what quickly becomes a meaningless, indigestible blur of CGI. The Twilight Saga’s Mackenzie Foy and Ready Player One’s Jayden Fowora-Knight aim for a tender, chaste Studio Ghibli romance as the engineering whizz heroine and her nutcracker soldier protector, respectively. Their commendable efforts are squashed by a series of afterthought story arcs, including that pox on contemporary cinema: daddy issues.

Good visual ideas – notably a mob of circus performers that divide like matryoshka dolls – make for the kind of spectacle that might amuse children momentarily until the fanged version turns up in their nightmares.

Several top notch talents – notably Richard E Grant and Eugenio Derbez – are utterly squandered. Keira Knightley, essaying the Sugar Plum Fairy, has an absolute ball simultaneously channelling Tim Burton era Helena Bonham Carter and Carol Kane’s Ghost of Christmas Present.

If this wastage isn’t soul destroying enough, sit back and wait for the corporate live action remakes of Mulan, The Lion King, Aladdin, Dumbo, The Little Mermaid, Snow White and many more. Crack on elsewhere, Nutcracker.

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms opens November 2nd