The Nutcracker and the Four Realms Movie Review

(L-R): Keira Knightley is the Sugar Plum Fairy and Mackenzie Foy is Clara in ‘The Nutcracker and the Four Realms.’
Photo Credit: Laurie Sparham

Title: ‘The Nutcracker and the Four Realms’

Directors: Lasse Hallström and Joe Johnston

Starring: Mackenzie Foy (‘The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Parts 1 and 2’), Keira Knightley, Helen Mirren and Morgan Freeman

Reinventing an iconic story that not only makes it relatable to modern audiences, but also pays homage to the original plot and themes, is a vital part in making a successful and endearing retelling. The new family fantasy adventure film, ‘The Nutcracker and the Four Realms,’ which was directed by Lasse Hallström and Joe Johnston, and Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures is set to release in theaters on Friday, stunningly does just that. Not only does the story feature a strong female character in her coming-of-age journey as she learns how to contend with her heavy emotional burden, which modern audiences can surely relate to, but also pays tribute to both its inspirations. The movie was inspired by E.T.A. Hoffmann’s classic story, ‘The Nutcracker and the Mouse King’ and Alexandre Dumas’ retelling of the story in the 1892 Tchaikovsky ballet, ‘The Nutcracker.’ The intriguing mix shows how encountering incredible personalities on their journey can help people find the answers they need in order to truly embrace their life and circumstances.

‘The Nutcracker and the Four Realms’ follows Clara (Mackenzie Foy), an intelligent 14-year-old with a penchant for science. The teen girl isn’t really comfortable in her skin, as she doesn’t fit into the normal stereotypes of a Victorian girl; instead of fancy dresses, she’s more interested in creating and building and figuring out how things work. In that respect, she’s very similar to her godfather, Drosselmeyer, who encourages her love of science (Morgan Freeman).

In addition to not completely fitting into the norms of being a Victorian girl, Clara also struggles with the recent passing of her mother, Marie (Anna Madeley). As it’s the first holiday season that her family is spending without Marie, she has left behind presents for Clara and her siblings, which sets the young hero’s adventure into motion on Christmas Eve.

Marie left Clara an egg-shaped music box with a note that reads, Everything you need is inside. But the box is locked and, surprisingly, there is no key. Clara is left disappointed and confused, but remains determined to unlock the music box and the secrets it holds. Her confusion persists until a golden thread, presented to her at Drosselmeyer’s annual holiday party, leads her to the coveted key, which promptly disappears into a strange and mysterious parallel world.

It’s in that parallel universe that Clara encounters a soldier named Phillip (Jayden Fowora-Knight), a gang of mice and the regents who preside over three realms: Land of Snowflakes, Land of Flowers and Land of Sweets. She is welcomed with open arms by the regents, particularly Sugar Plum Fairy (Keira Knightley), who confides that she was once very close with Marie.

But this strange new world is not whole. It is scarred with past conflict—one regent, Mother Ginger (Helen Mirren) is in exile, and her realm is forgotten and crawling with mice who serve as her soldiers. Clara and Phillip must brave this ominous Fourth Realm, which serves as home to the regent-turned-tyrant Mother Ginger, to retrieve Clara’s key and hopefully return harmony to the unstable world.

‘The Nutcracker and the Four Realms’ is an equally thrilling, heartwarming and life-affirming story that perfectly captures the true meaning of Christmas, especially when it comes to learning to appreciate the true meaning of the importance of family. Screenwriter Ashleigh Powell created a powerfully positive message of a family’s love giving them the strength to overcome loss, as well as their ability to embrace their own courage and resourcefulness.

Foy is the true standout star in the adventure fantasy film, and brings genuine heart to the story. In her first major studio leading role, the teen actress stunning infused her character of Clara with an authentic sense of struggling with the loss of her mother. But upon finding the magical world of the title four realms, which challenges her at every turn, she’s led on a meaningful journey through the grief that leads her to discover her true purpose in not only her family, but life overall.

Not only does ‘The Nutcracker and the Four Realms’ feature the meaningful message about the importance of appreciating familial bond and friendships, which Clara enthrallingly learned during her journey on Christmas Eve, but the drama also includes visually stunning sets. The movie was filmed in England at Pinewood Studios and various locations in and around London, and the vision for the sets was brought to life by Production Designer Guy Hendrix Dyas. He smartly created a visual contrast between the real world that the main character lives in with her family and the alternative land that she discovers on Christmas Eve. The four realms feature extremely original and imaginative locales, including Marie’s former Palace, as well as the Land of Sweets, Land of Snowflakes and Land of Flowers.

The story takes audiences from the subdued Stahlbaum home to Godfather Drosselmeyer’s grand and festive holiday celebration, including a visit to his elaborate and stunning workshop. From there, Clara makes her way to the intriguing and inspiring world of the Four Realms. The adventure fantasy film is set in 1879 London, during an optimistic version of the Victorian era, which guides Clara’s journey of self-discovery.

Recreating a time-honored story that not only makes it relatable to modern audiences, but also pays homage to its original plot and themes, is an important part in making a noteworthy and endearing retelling. The new family fantasy adventure film, ‘The Nutcracker and the Four Realms,’ enthrallingly does just that. Not only does the story feature a strong female character in her coming-of-age journey as she learns how to contend with her heavy emotional burden, which modern audiences can surely relate to, but also pays tribute to both its inspirations. The fascinating shows how encountering incredible personalities on their journey can help people find the answers they need in order to truly embrace their life and circumstances.

Technical: A-

Acting: B

Story: B

Movie Review Details
Review Date
Reviewed Item
The Nutcracker and the Four Realms'
Author Rating
4
Karen Benardello: As a life-long fan of entertainment, particularly films, television and music, and an endless passion for writing, Karen Benardello decided to combine the two for a career. She graduated from New York's LIU Post with a B.F.A in Journalism, Print and Electronic. While still attending college, Karen began writing for Shockya during the summer of 2007, when she began writing horror movie reviews. Since she began writing for Shockya, Karen has been promoted to the position of Senior Movies & Television Editor. Some of her duties in the position include interviewing filmmakers and musicians, producing posts on celebrity news and contributing reviews on albums and concerts. Some of her highlights include attending such festivals and conventions as the Tribeca Film Festival, the New York Film Festival, SXSW, Toronto After Dark, the Boston Film Festival and New York Comic-Con.