Slight Yet Stunning: Our Review of ‘The Nutcracker and the Four Realms’ on 4K Blu-Ray

Posted in Blu-Ray/DVD, Movies by - January 30, 2019
Slight Yet Stunning: Our Review of ‘The Nutcracker and the Four Realms’ on 4K Blu-Ray

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The power of a strong intellectual property really knows no boundaries…

With The Nutcracker And The Four Realms we get a pleasant but ultimately empty attempt at putting the Disney brand on an already established property.  There’s nothing wrong it, but there’s also nothing all that distinct or memorable about it either.

All Clara (Mackenzie Foy) wants is a key; a one-of-a-kind key that will unlock a box that holds a priceless gift. A golden thread, presented to her at godfather Drosselmeyer’s (Morgan Freeman) annual holiday party, leads her to the coveted key; which promptly disappears into a strange and mysterious parallel world. It’s there that Clara encounters a soldier named Phillip (Jayden Fowora-Knight), a gang of mice and the regents who administer over three Realms: Land of Snowflakes, Land of Flowers and Land of Sweets. Clara and Phillip must brave the ominous Fourth Realm, home to the tyrant Mother Ginger (Helen Mirren), to retrieve Clara’s key and hopefully return harmony to the unstable world.

While this is a pleasant thing to the eye, The Nutcracker And The Four Realms plays a little too much on the surface which while shiny just has nothing of much emotional resonance underneath it all.

It’s not often a film gets two directors (that aren’t either married or related) but both Lasse Hallström & Joe Johnston are sound visual storytellers as they effectively crafted worlds both magical and ground in reality but still wonderful to look at.  It’s visually quite engaging and manages to highlight so many iconic visuals from the myriad of the stage productions that have been produced and it also gives reverence to the art of the dance and the ballet with numerous dance sequences that look great on any size screen.

Sadly the weaknesses in the film really do have to fall on the script.  Screenwriter Ashleigh Powell adapting from both the short story by E.T.A. Hoffmann and the ballet by Marius Petipa just never allows for a lot of character development which is part of the reason why this story doesn’t necessarily translate over to the screen as well as you’d hope.  When you’re watching a ballet, production design and artistic direction can take priority over character development but here it really doesn’t work.

That’s not to say anyone did a bad job in the film, Mackenzie Foy is certainly coming into her own and can carry the screen reasonably well but her characters motivations were the only ones that were fleshed out and even saying that is kind.

Saying she’s sad, missing her Mum and wanting to find away to reconnect is at least adequate but there were no emotional layers on display from almost the entire ensemble cast.  Morgan Freeman was just there to be quirky and send our heroine on her adventures; Matthew Macfayden was just a sad sack as her father, while Jack Whitehall, Eugenio Derbez, Richard E Grant and Helen Mirren were just wasted and not given all that much to do.  Only Keira Knightley gets a couple of scene stealing moments but even then she just wasn’t super effective.  It all ended up being, honestly a little flat.

Picture and sound quality on the 4K Blu-Ray we’re exceptionally sharp and stunning, especially during some of the more fantastic looking sequences as the colour scheme of the film really does pop.  The special features are admittedly a little thin on this release but there is a behind the scenes interview with ballet dancer Misty Copeland about the dance sequences in the film.  There’s a quick over all look at the behind the scenes making of the film and how it tries to blend both cinema and elements of the stage to great a very distinct feeling film, Deleted Scenes and two music videos; Fall On Me performed by Andrea Bocelli and The Nutcracker Suite by Lang Lang.

Ultimately, The Nutcracker And The Four Realms is a pretty enough affair and it actually holds together a little bit better on the small screen then it does on the big, but it all plays so slight that you’ll forget about it far too easily after the credits have rolled.

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This post was written by
David Voigt is a Toronto based writer with a problem and a passion for the moving image and all things cinema. Having moved from production to the critical side of the aisle for well over 10 years now at outlets like, Criticize This, Dork Shelf (Now That Shelf), to.Night Newspaper he’s been all across his city, the country and the continent in search of all the news and reviews that are fit to print from the world of cinema.
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