Making the Grades
George Balanchine's The Nutcracker, as the official title of this movie reads, puts the world famous ballet, story, and of course Tchaikovsky's classic score to video. Set as a stage production, the movie tells the story of toymaker Drosselmeier who comes to visit a little girl and her family. With him he brings his nephew, played by Macaulay Culkin, who later transforms into the Nutcracker Prince.
The Nutcracker on videotape can be useful in introducing children to ballet. It even comes complete with a friendly narrator, Kevin Kline, who is kind of like sitting in front of a ballet-wise father explaining what's happening on stage to his kids, and you get to overhear. With my knowledge of ballet, Mr. Kline was certainly useful at clarifying the actions of the dancers, although he does remove the fun of figuring out the story for yourself.
And then there is Macaulay Culkin, the real reason this production even made it to distribution. It's obvious that Culkin is the sugar to help the medicine go down, but he still leaves a bittersweet taste in my mouth. Smile Macaulay... bow Macaulay... and yes, he even gives a feeble attempt at a hop or two. However, for the most part Macaulay is placed in the film for the sole purpose of attracting an audience.
Tchaikovsky's music may be enough to keep some children interested, as they will no doubt recognize many of the pieces. As well, children with an artistic interest and a good imagination will find the film entertaining, but for children raised on action and spoon-fed drama, you may be wasting your money.
Although I am not an avid consumer of ballet, I'm sure that ballet on the stage has far more impact then on television. This film poses nothing that wouldn't meet the standards and values of almost any family. However, don't watch it for Culkin, watch it because you enjoy the dancing, the story, and that glorious music that has lived with us for over a century.