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Movie Review: “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms”

There are many movies that are worth seeing, but there are a lot of stinkers as well. My goal here is to weed out the good from the bad.

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms

Theatrical Release: 11/2/2018

Theatrical Release: 11/2/2018

Synopsis

After the passing of their mother, Clara (Mackenzie Foy) and her family have struggled to move on. However, on Christmas Eve, Clara’s father reveals that her mother had left gifts for her and her two siblings. Clara’s brother receives cool toys, Clara’s sister receives a collection of beautiful dresses, but Clara receives a strange lock box in the shape of an egg. This is a curious gift, especially considering her mother did not leave a key to go along with it.

Clara sets out on a journey to find answers. She needs to find answers to what lies inside the egg and where she belongs now that her mother is gone. Her journey takes her to a mysterious land that consists of four realms: the realm of snowflakes, the realm of flowers, the realm of sweets, and the dangerous fourth realm. The fourth realm is at war with the others. Mother Ginger (Helen Mirren), the leader of the fourth realm hopes to rule over the remaining three now that the Queen, Clara’s mother, is gone. In order to stop Mother Ginger, Clara needs to find a key, which just may be the very same key that unlocks the mysterious egg.

Official Trailer

The Pros & Cons

All movies start with an average score of 75pts, points are then added or subtracted based on each Pro and Con. Each Pro or Con is designated points, ranging from 0-10, to convey how significant these Pros or Cons are.

The ProsThe Cons

Mackenzie Foy (+6pts)

Plot Devices (-8pts)

Visuals (+2pts)

Dancing & The Four Realms (-6pts)

Clara & The Nutcracker (+3pts)

Predictable (-8pts)

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Pro: Mackenzie Foy (+6pts)

I went into The Nutcracker and the Four Realms expecting the lead actress to give a bland, typical performance. The reason for that was because, after seeing the trailers for this movie, there was nothing about her that stood out to me. Fortunately, I could not have been more wrong. Mackenzie Foy actually ended up being my favorite part of this movie, although that is not exactly saying much.

The young actress ends up bringing depth to this role. While the character’s arc is predictable, she gives the audience the sense that her character is really struggling with the loss of her mother. The character is brave, and hopeful, but is also filled with a sense of sadness, a sense of emptiness, and a sense that she does not fit in an ordinary life. The character never feels all too original, so Mackenzie Foy is not given a ton to work with here, but she ends up making the best out of the situation. I will be honest, I did not like this movie, but Mackenzie Foy did a good job in this role and I hope to see more of the young actress in the future.

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Con: Plot Devices (-8pts)

Lazy writing was a rampant issue throughout this entire story. This is evident by the overwhelming number of plot devices that were used by the writers. There are two types of plot devices that were used in this movie: coincidences and dumb decisions. One coincidence was when a mouse grabs an important object right when Clara goes to reach for it. The object has been sitting in this spot for who knows how long and it has been untouched, but right when Clara finds it, it is grabbed and taken by a mouse. Another example was placing the buttons to control a dangerous machine right where a character just so happened to be. These were coincidences that proved to be very convenient for the writers, but it was the other type of plot device that bothered me more.

Dumb decisions by characters absolutely infested this movie. You capture your enemies? Put them in an unsecure, unguarded tower with a fairly obvious escape route. A giant gun slowly turns to aim at you? Just stand there surprised long enough for the thing to shoot you. These are just a couple of examples, but there are many more throughout the movie and they are distracting examples of how the writers used dumb decisions to move the plot in the desired direction.

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Pro: Visuals (+2pts)

To be totally honest, this only made it into this review because I was struggling to find redeeming qualities about this movie. That being said the visuals were decent. They will never take your breath away but the colors were bright, the costumes were extravagant, and the sets felt massive. It is not a good movie but it is pleasant to look at.

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Con: Dancing & The Four Realms (-6pts)

In The Nutcracker and the Four Realms you would think that the four realms would be important. The four realms are at war with each other, but we learn little about what the realms are like or what initiated the war. Instead of seeing each of the realms and experiencing them, we get a long explanation from Sugar Plum. Then we get a completely separate dance that demonstrates exactly what Sugar Plum explained already, and to make things worse the dance was narrated to Clara by Sugar Plum. The whole thing felt like a waste of time when we could have used that time to actually see the realms, and it was made immensely more irritating by the fact that Keira Knightley was using that ridiculous voice. I mean seriously, whose idea was it for her to use that voice?

Then there was the lack of explanation as to why they realms were at war. The explanation that Sugar Plum gave (twice) was extremely vague. As a result, it was hard to get invested in the war. To make things even worse, once it is eventually revealed, the whole plot falls apart. All of the population of the four realms were at war with, basically, no reason to justify it. I kept it very vague here so I hope you were able to follow me. Just know that the explanation for the war completely falls apart after the reveal. All you have to do is think about it for a second and the whole thing becomes a mess.

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Pro: Clara & The Nutcracker (+3pts)

Unfortunately the titular character (the nutcracker) gets very little attention in this movie. Fortunately, I liked the character and his relationship with Clara. It is worth noting that when I say “relationship”, I do not mean there is anything romantic there. The nutcracker is the first person Clara comes into contact with upon discovering this mysterious land. From there the two grow together.

For Clara, the nutcracker serves as a character that eases Clara into this new land. For the nutcracker, Clara serves as a way to get the nutcracker out of the position he has held for so long and into the fight to save the four realms. Both characters serve as a way to get each other out of their comfort zones and both characters are better for it. I only wish that this arc got more focus as it could have made this hollow story far more impactful.

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Con: Predictable (-8pts)

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms was just so darn predictable. The most blatant examples of this were Sugar Plum and the mystery of what is inside the egg. To avoid spoilers, I am not going to talk about Sugar Plum, just know that there is a plot point regarding her that anyone, who has seen a movie before, will be able to see it coming from a mile away. Regarding the egg, this is another element of the story that I saw coming but I called it when Clara first read the note that came along with it. The note reads “everything you need is inside”. Right when I saw the note, I knew what was inside. The problem with these two plot points is that audiences will know exactly what is coming, but the entire movie is spent pretending audiences are clueless. This makes the whole story severely uninteresting. I really hoped that these would both be red herrings, but that just ended up being wishful thinking.

Grading Scale

GradeCategoryPoints

A+

Amazing

95-100

A-

Great

90-94

B+

Good

85-89

B-

Decent

80-84

C+

Average

75-79

C-

Watchable

70-74

D+

Bad

65-69

D-

Terrible

60-64

F

Garbage

45-59

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Grade: D- (64pts)

There was not a lot of hype around The Nutcracker and the Four Realms and, after having seen the movie I know why. This movie was terrible. The writers resorted to lazy writing at every step of the way. From a severely predictable main plot, to a severely predictable “mysterious” artifact, this story will bore most audiences. It does not do anything special and is littered with lazy plot devices. The writers really phoned it in with this movie.

Mackenzie Foy actually did a decent job as Clara. She was not given a ton to work with, but made the most of it and ended up being the best part of the movie. After that, there really was not much to enjoy about this movie. Clara and her relationship with the nutcracker was interesting but the filmmakers gave it no focus. The Nutcracker and the Four Realms was a mess plain and simple. It is not worth your time, and is certainly not worth your money. Very young kids may enjoy the colors, animals, and over-the-top characters but anyone over the age of five should find something else to watch.

Comments

Movie Beasts (author) from MA on November 19, 2018:

Hey Rachael,

I am glad you enjoyed this review! Although, I disagree with the notion that children’s stories cannot be innovative. I think the filmmakers easily could have made a coherent plot, rational characters, and a plot that doesn’t make things “easy” for the protagonists all without being too complex for kids.

That being said, I greatly appreciate the comment and always like hearing what others think about the movies I review. Seems like we mostly agreed on our thoughts of the movie.

Thanks for reaching out!

-Bryan

Rachael Lefler from Illinois on November 19, 2018:

I agree with what you said but I think D- is too harsh. I mean, within the parameters of a children's fairy tale story type, they can't be too innovative with the plot or they risk children not getting it or hating it. They had to play it safe. What I wanted from the movie was more ballet dancing, more villain back story, and more of the Four Realms themselves. Because honestly only the Realm of Amusement matters, and like you said, the reveal makes the whole Four Realms make less sense. I'd really like to dive more into the story behind each kingdom and each leader's relationship with Clara's mother. Perhaps a flashback could have helped with that.