There's no lack of imaginative costumes or sumptuous visuals in this Disney adaptation of the classic Christmas story that began life as fairytale and went on to become a famous ballet with music by Tchaikovsky.
Although the look and feel may overwhelm this sweet story of a teenage girl deciphering a mysterious message left by her deceased mother, it's lovely to see a film make bold choices, such as including ballet performed by the remarkable American ballerina Misty Copeland, as both a tribute to its origins and a novel way of telling the story.
Parents will appreciate the big name cast - Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman and Richard E Grant, to name a few - but it's the young heroine played by Mackenzie Foy (Interstellar, Twilight) who will catch the attention of the target audience; young ballet dancers.
Foy plays Clara, a brave and bright young teenager with an interest in science, which is somewhat ahead of her time: Victorian England. With her father (Matthew Macfadyen) and two siblings, Clara is struggling with her first Christmas without her mother, Marie. She had left presents for her children, and Clara receives a handcrafted egg-shaped box with a note telling her everything she needs is inside. But she doesn't have the key to unlock it.
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Clara approaches her godfather, an inventor played by Freeman, for help and ends up on a journey to a parallel universe known as the Four Realms. It's here she learns her mother was a Realm Queen, and that since her death there's been conflict between the realms. It's up to Clara to uncover the truth and bring peace.
Foy and her loyal Nutcracker soldier Phillip (Jayden Fowora-Knight) are lovely. The ensemble cast also does its job well, although without a stronger narrative, it's the visual mechanics that linger in the mind.
The Nutcracker and the Four Realms doesn't have quite the same charm as other Disney live action remakes Cinderella or Beauty and the Beast, but for those of us who prefer their festive films without the usual Christmas cliches this imaginative adaptation will hit the mark. It sure did for my 9year-old companions.
Cast: Mackenzie Foy, Keira Knightley
Director: Lasse Hallstrom
Running Time: 99 mins
Verdict: Features some clever ideas, but visuals overwhelm the story.