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
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) is the leader of the fourth realm and she 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 is likely the very same key that unlocks the mysterious egg.
The Pros & Cons
|The Pros||The Cons|
Mackenzie Foy (+6pts)
Plot Devices (-8pts)
Dancing & The Four Realms (-6pts)
Clara & The Nutcracker (+3pts)
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 managed to bring depth and emotion to this role. While the character’s arc was predictable, Mackenzie Foy made me feel her character’s pain over losing her mother. The character was brave, and hopeful, but she was also filled with a sense of sadness, a sense of emptiness, and a sense that she did not fit in an ordinary life. The character never felt all too original, so Mackenzie Foy was not given a ton to work with here, but she ended up doing considerably well with the character, given the writing around her. 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 this young actress in the future.
Con: Plot Devices (-8pts)
Lazy writing was a rampant issue throughout this entire story. This was evident by the overwhelming number of plot devices that were used by the writers. There were two types of plot devices that were used in this movie: coincidences and dumb decisions. One coincidence was when a mouse grabbed an important object right when Clara reached for it. The object had been sitting in that spot for who knows how long and it had been untouched, but right when Clara found it, a mouse took it instead. 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. A character captured their enemies, and put them in an unsecure, unguarded tower with a fairly obvious escape route. A giant gun slowly turned to aim at a character, and that character stood there like a deer in headlights long enough for the thing to shoot them. These were just a couple of examples, but there were many more throughout the movie and they were distracting examples of how the writers used dumb decisions to move the plot in their desired direction.
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 was not a good movie by any stretch of the imagination, but it was pleasant to look at.
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 were at war with each other, but we learned little about what the realms were like and what initiated the war. Instead of seeing each of the realms and experiencing them for ourselves, we got a long explanation from Sugar Plum (Keira Knightley). We then got a completely separate dance that demonstrated exactly what Sugar Plum had already explained, and to make things worse the dance was narrated to Clara by Sugar Plum. In other words, we got the same information multiple times, and the whole thing felt like a waste of time when we could have used that time to actually see the realms. It was made immensely more irritating by the fact that Keira Knightley was using an absolutely ridiculous voice. I mean seriously, whose idea was that?
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. Then once it was eventually revealed, the whole plot fell apart. All of the population of the four realms were at war, and there was 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 fell apart after the reveal, if you think about it even a little.
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Pro: Clara & The Nutcracker (+3pts)
Unfortunately, the titular character—the nutcracker—got very little attention in this movie. I liked what little we got of the character, and I enjoyed the relationship between him and Clara. Keep in mind that when I say “relationship”, I do not mean there was anything romantic there, just that I enjoyed their friendship. The nutcracker was the first person Clara came into contact with upon discovering this mysterious land. From there the two grew together.
For Clara, the nutcracker helped ease her into this new land. For the nutcracker, Clara served as a way to get the nutcracker out of the position he had held for so long and into the fight to save the four realms. Both characters served as a way to get each other out of their comfort zones, and both characters were better for it. I only wish that this pairing got more focus, as it could have made this hollow story far more impactful, but I enjoyed the little that we got of this friendship.
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 was inside the egg. To avoid spoilers, I am not going to talk about Sugar Plum, just know that there was a plot twist regarding her that anyone who has seen a movie before will be able to see coming from a mile away. Regarding the egg, this was another element of the story that I saw coming, and I called it when Clara first read the note that came along with it—which happened at pretty much the beginning of the movie.
The note read “everything you need is inside”. Right when I saw the note, I knew exactly what was going to be inside. Audiences will know exactly what is coming, but it was as if the filmmakers spent the whole movie in denial, thinking that these reveals would somehow be surprising. If these were minor plot points, it would not have impacted the movie much, but that was not the case. The most predictable aspects of this story were the most crucial plot points, and it made the whole story pretty uninteresting. I really hoped that these would both be red herrings, but that turned out to be wishful thinking.
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 artifact, this story will bore most audiences. The filmmakers did not do anything special here, and it was instead littered with lazy plot devices. It made it feel like the writers knew families would go see this movie regardless of how much effort they put it into it, so the writers just decided to phone it in.
Mackenzie Foy actually did a decent job as Clara. She was not given a lot to work with, but I thought she 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. The pairing of Clara and 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 it is certainly not worth your money. Very young kids may enjoy the colors, the animals, and the over-the-top characters, but anyone over the age of five should find something else to watch.
Movie Beasts (author) from MA on November 19, 2018:
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!
Naomi Starlight 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.