This article was originally published on November 5, 2018 on Cinephile's former website.
A film that projected much promise through trailers and movie posters fell flat in this latest adaption of The Nutcracker.
Little girls came in droves with their parents and the occasional brother who looked miserable as he tagged along. The girls squealed and giggled as they took their seats. They climbed in the chairs, fluffed out their pink & purple blankets, as the parents passed out popcorn trays to the little darlings. I grew excited while watching them, because I too was about to take this journey with them.
The film started. There was an attic and the children were trying to catch a mouse. We head downstairs and guess who's standing beside the Christmas tree? Mr. Darcy! I mean the father of the children Mr. Stahlbaum, played by Matthew Macfadyen (Pride & Prejudice, 2005). Who, I should note, played his grief as if he was bored out of his mind and at any moment he could fall asleep to the sound of his own voice.
We follow middle child Clara Stahlbaum, portrayed by Mackenzie Foy (Interstellar, 2014) as she and the rest of her siblings, along with their father, try to move forward after the passing of their mother/wife, Marie. Marie leaves each child a gift. Clara received an egg that has lock with no key. Frustrated by the absence of the key, Clara takes it upon herself to be mean and condescending to her father, who's visibly in pain. This is where our story begins.
To keep myself from falling over in my seat, after becoming increasingly heavy-eyed, I played movie association in my mind. Actually I had already begun when the thought of Mr. Darcy came to mind.
The Stahlbaum family attends a Christmas Eve party at the Darling House, while Clara wonders off to Professor Dumbledore's office where a pirated Morgan Freeman, (Ben-Hur, 2016) informs Clara that he gave her mother the egg in question. Willy Wonka then ropes out his Christmas gifts and we follow Clara's golden rope through the wardrobe, into Narnia, which leads to the key that opens the mysterious egg. The key is snatched by a mouse, who Clara then chases until she meets Mr. Tumnus while trying to cross a bridge. They head into the forbidden forest to try and retrieve the key, but are chased by a demon very similar to the one that attacked the Emishi people in Princess Mononoke, 1997. After they fail to get the key and are scared away by the Red Queen, Mr. Tumnus takes Clara to the Kremlin where she can meet the people of The Capitol and the governors over the Lollipop Guild. This is where we meet the famous Sugar Plum, played abysmally by Keira Knightly, (Colette, 2018). If you want a hint to how annoying Sugar Plum's character was just watch this Williams Carpet Outlet commercial on repeat for about an hour; I think it'll drive the point home.
The Nutcrackerexcels in production design, every frame is beautiful; bravo to the art department! But with all that beauty the story lacks in pacing and the main character is not relatable and is celebrated even though she's not likable. This film lives inside its own conceited head. I can imagine the filmmakers saying, "We'll give the audience every element of every fantasy film ever made!" But what they unknowingly missed was giving this film heart.
Oh and one more thing, at the end Morgan Freeman's character, Drosselmeyer, shares with Clara that her mother shared with him before she passed, that Clara was her greatest creation. All I could think was BULL!!! This woman had two other children and one child was the greatest of all of them? She was either a terrible mother or the writer of that line didn't understand that a real-loving mother would never say that of just one of her children.