The Nutcracker and the Four Realms Parent Guide
This particular take on The Nutcracker is pretty and sugary sweet but ultimately hollow and unsatisfying.
Parent Movie Review
Watching a ballet performance of The Nutcracker has become a holiday tradition for many families. This 19th century fairy tale about a girl whose toy nutcracker comes to life is most famous for its unmistakable music and whimsical characters. It’s also gone through countless film and stage adaptations—something Disney is clearly mindful of in this latest installment. If you’re looking for a faithful retelling of the classic, you can forget it. This version is deliberately different.
Our protagonist is a young girl named Clara (Mackenzie Foy) who’s devastated by the recent death of her mother and not too keen on joining her family’s Christmas celebrations. This puts her at odds with her father (Matthew Macfadyen,) who insists she attend an annual party hosted by her mysterious Godfather Drosselmeyer, (Morgan Freeman.) And good thing too, because her godfather has prepared a very special gift for the gloomy pre-teen. At the end of a rather spooky hallway, Clara discovers the entrance to another world and steps out into the snowy forest of The Four Realms—lands of snowflakes, flowers, sugary sweets, and carnival amusements loosely inspired by the original ballet.
But all is not well. After exploring the icy landscape with no apparent discomfort (in dancing shoes and short sleeves—this is definitely magic snow) Clara stumbles across the movie’s namesake, a living, full sized nutcracker soldier, (Jayden Fowora-Knight.) The helpful chap explains that the carnival realm is at war with the other three and wandering about willy-nilly might be dangerous. When the stubborn girl insists on crossing the border into the troublesome territory anyway, she’s quickly attacked by a writhing monster made of hundreds of scurrying mice. This CGI creature is unsettling to say the least. If you have a phobia of rodents, you’ll want to sit this one out.
Parents with sensitive little ones might also want to note that giant, squirmy mouse-monsters aren’t the only frightening visuals. The land of carnival amusements has seen better days, and features plenty of leering sculptures and broken fair rides that emerge eerily from the fog. It’s also home to a host of hyperactive clowns who spring from one another’s rotund bodies like matryoshka dolls - those Russian nesting dolls that are actually pretty cool when they don’t wear creepy clown faces or crawl around on the floor. This nightmarish imagery is too dark for younger kids and makes moments of sword fighting action and even the hero’s peril in the final battle seem somewhat anticlimactic.
Though the movie attempts the heartwarming messages of self confidence and cherishing family relationships, these moments don’t have the support of the script to make them meaningful. Instead, the inevitable transformation of our hero from a timid and heartbroken girl to a strong and capable young woman feels forced and (dare I say?)…boring. With the film’s “believe in yourself” themes and strong dose of girl power, Clara proves an almost identical character to Disney’s other recent leading ladies, such as Moana or Frozen’s Anna or Elsa.
In contrast to the shallow plot, costumes and set pieces are lavishly over the top. Ballgowns are strung with lights and glitter, makeup and hairstyles are detailed and elaborate, and Clara’s fantasy world is drenched in color. The film is visually stunning, and while this adds to the experience, it can’t salvage the poor pacing and weak characters. Like a mouthful of cotton candy, this particular take on The Nutcracker is pretty and sugary sweet, but ultimately hollow.Directed by Lasse Hallström, Joe Johnston. Starring Keira Knightley, Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren. Running time: 99 minutes. Theatrical release November 2, 2018. Updated November 2, 2018
Watch the trailer for The Nutcracker and the Four Realms
The Nutcracker and the Four Realms
Rating & Content Info
Why is The Nutcracker and the Four Realms rated PG? The Nutcracker and the Four Realms is rated PG by the MPAA for some mild peril
Violence: Animals are chased by predators and caught in traps. Characters are frightened by monstrous creatures, scary circus performers, and threaten and intimidate each other. Characters engage in sword fighting, or use fist fighting and kicking in combat situations. Characters are captured, disappear down holes, and are nearly crushed by a collapsing structure. A character jumps from a tall building, climbs down a rocky precipice, and is often in peril.
Sexual Content: Characters wear tight and low cut dresses, one character uses flirty and mildly suggestive language.
Profanity: Infrequent mild profanity and slang terms.
Alcohol / Drug Use: None noted.
Page last updated November 2, 2018
The Nutcracker and the Four Realms Parents' Guide
To save The Four Realms, Clara must use her talents with confidence. What talents do you have? How can you use them to help others
Read books about The Nutcracker and the Four Realms
Susan Jeffers’ classic picture book of The Nutcracker is a beautiful retelling of the traditional ballet suitable for readers of all ages.
Young readers will also enjoy the Angelina Ballerina series by Katharine Holabird and Helen Craig.
Anyone in love with ballet can dive into Noel Streatfeild’s classic novel Ballet Shoes.
Jessica Day George has created an exciting retelling of the fairy tale of the twelve dancing princesses. Entitled Princess of the Midnight Ball, this novel mixes magic, dance, and danger with dance. This tale is also retold by Heather Dixon in Entwined. Both novels contain moments of peril and are suitable for readers aged 10 and up.
Teens who enjoy dance and danger can try reading Tasha Alexander’s murder mystery, Death in St. Petersburg. This novel tells the story of the murder of a ballerina and mentions mistresses and alcohol use, as well as non-explicit allusions to a sexual relationship between a married couple.
Related home video titles:
Can’t get enough of the Nutcracker? Young fans will doubtless enjoy Barbie in the Nutcracker
Older viewers might enjoy Step Up and its positive messages about dancers who take responsibility and work hard to achieve their goals.