Reviewed by: Alexander Malsan
Death of a parent—how to deal with it
What is DEATH? and WHY does it exist? Answer in the Bible
Why does God allow innocent people to suffer? Answer
Does God feel our pain? Answer
Did God make the world the way it is now? What kind of world would you create? Answer
What is LYING? Answer
The importance of courage
The importance of loving your family
What is Christian LOVE? Answer
The importance of forgiveness
REVIEWS of “Christmas” movies
Mackenzie Foy … Clara
Keira Knightley … Sugar Plum
Morgan Freeman … Drosselmeyer
Helen Mirren … Mother Ginger
Jayden Fowora-Knight … Phillip
Richard E. Grant … Shiver
Misty Copeland … Ballerina Princess
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|Director:||Lasse Hallström—“Chocolat” (2000), “The Cider House Rules” (1999), “What's Eating Gilbert Grape” (1993)
Joe Johnston—“Captain America: The First Avenger” (2011), “Jurassic Park III” (2001), “Hidalgo” (2004)
|Producer:||The Mark Gordon Company
Walt Disney Pictures
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Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
It’s Christmas Eve. For most, its the most wonderful time of the year. For Clara and her family, though, it is a not so momentous an occasion. Every since the death of her mother around Christmastime, Clara has never felt the Christmas spirit. After all, it was her mother that understood Clara best—her quirks, her personality, everything that made her her. And this Christmas, she receives a special gift from her mother, a lock. “But where’s the key?” she wonders. And doesn’t she then discover that the lock (and likely the key) were made by none other than her Godfather Dosselmeir.
Later that evening, for the sake of family appearances, per her father’s request, Clara, her sister and her brother attend Grandfather Dosselmeir’s Christmas Ball. Clara has no use for talking to complete strangers, rather she takes the time to explore Dosselmeir’s workshop and his crazy inventions. But then the announcement comes: “It’s time for the present hunt!” cries Godfather Dosselmeir. “Follow-the-string-to-the-present” is the game.
As Clara follows the string she enters the Four Realms, where she soon discovers her mother was the Queen of the Realms, and Clara is now Princess of the Realms. However, Clara soon receives word that the evil Mother Ginger is trying to conquer the other realms. It’s up to Clara, the Nutcracker, and the Sugar Plum Fairy to come together and defeat Mother Ginger before all hope is lost.
Perhaps I’m naïve in stating this, but I truly believe it is not an easy task to convert one of the world’s most beloved and cherished ballets and turn it into a Disney feature film (then again, I felt that way about “Frozen” too, but I digress). Still, it takes courage, and I was wondering, when I originally saw the previews a year ago, if this film really had what it takes: would it make a mockery of the ballet or would it inspire a new generation to, perhaps, step back and truly appreciate the overall beauty and finesse that goes into each step, the underlying story that is told through music and dance, even though I realized that Disney was going to have to do some serious revisions (and perhaps liberties) to market the story accordingly).
Now granted, what we have here in “…Nutcracker” are subtleties and similarities to Tchaikovsky’s ballet. However, just as “Frozen” was SOMEWHAT based on the story of the Snow Queen, “…Nutcracker,” in my opinion, is only somewhat based on the actual ballet, which is a relief, actually, and makes writing this review much easier.
As a stand alone piece, “…Nutcracker” is a standard Disney flick: a young female (or should I say protagonist) discovers her true potential through a series of trials and events and comes out stronger and more resolved in the end. This is extremely commendable and applaudable in every way and certainly aspects I want to encourage parents to instill in their children. The values and content in this film are clean. There are strong lessons regarding finding strength in each other (which I will touch upon later), family, and perhaps in judging others, and again, all of these lessons are portrayed in a positive, family-friendly manner that will not likely make many parents uncomfortable.
Still (and yes, I’m NOT the target audience, I get it), Disney has done a better job of pushing these themes in a film that has more SUBSTANCE and, shall I say, pizazz (think “Inside Out”) that could reach both children AND adults. Cinematically, there are commendable aspects to this film, such as the setting (the four realms are simply breathtaking, and the costuming of each character is beautifully detailed), and even a few performances are commendable ( Mackenzie Foy’s performance is well done). Yet the plot is SLOW (and I do mean SLOW), and at times I felt there was WAY too much dialog and not enough action or events occurring. But what really disappointed me were the roles of Morgan Freeman and Helen Mirren, two veteran stars who should have been provided a more substantial and re-occurring role than what they were given (I would guess Freeman had no more than 15 minutes of total screen time in the whole film. Mirren probably had less).
Violence: There’s a moderate amount of violence, none of it graphic though. The worst is when Clara and others go to war against Tin Soldiers, and we witness these soldiers being destroyed and tossed around. Toward the beginning of the film, there’s a scene where the Mouse King grabs Clara. One character falls through a hole (but she is completely fine, no injuries).
Sex/Nudity: A couple revealing outfits, but nothing else of great concern.
Other: Someone talks about cooking a mouse. Clara demonstrates some defiant behavior toward her father. The Mouse King and Mother Ginger’s Robot make one or two frightening appearances (frightening to REALLY young children under age 6). Someone sneezes in another person’s face.
One of the things I thought about, throughout the film, was how difficult Clara must have struggled with the passing of her mother. She tries to internalize her mother’s death to the point where she never feels comfortable enough to speak to her father about it. I am reminded of our Heavenly Father who is our Greatest Advocate and can take our pain. We don’t and shouldn’t hold our pain. God sees it in us and wants to carry our burden, if we let Him.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.” —2 Corinthians 1:3-8
“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”—Romans 8:26-28
As my friend and I were walking out today, he stated, “This had to be the Disney-est Disney film I’ve ever seen.” I had to agree with him. The film’s probably a little cliché, formulaic—sure. But in a time where clean, warm family-friendly films, such as this, are in short supply, it’s hard to find much fault in a film like the “…Nutcracker…” While it may not be Disney’s best, it’s still strong enough to warrant a recommendation from me, in spite of some violence and mild use of language. Overall, this is a relatively safe film for family viewing.
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.