Sunday, December 25, 2011

Movie Review: The Nutcracker: The Untold Story

The Nutcracker: The Untold Story
Rated PG
Copyright Freestyle Releasing & Cinemarket Films 2010


Mary: Elle Fanning! She is a little girl who gets the Nutcracker on Christmas Eve from her uncle and is the one to help bring it back to life. The plot and the Snow Fairy says she has some sort of magical power, but I say it is all BS. Though, I suppose her teardrops turn a wooden puppet into a real boy, so I figure it all works out. Also, she falls in love with the Prince, but since she barely knows him at all, I doubt it will last.

The Prince: He runs the kingdom that the Nazi rats have taken over. He was cursed by the queen into becoming the Nutcracker, but thanks to magic teardrops later in the film, he escapes his predicament. He’s not good at hiding people or at saving people either.

Nutcracker: Also called the NC. Oh dear god, those eyes. They’re staring into my soul! He/she is the form that the Prince takes when under the curse the Rat Queen gave him.

Max: Do not trust him with your stuff. He’ll burn it or break it. Hell, he’ll even join the enemy side to do it. Also, his naïve trusting will certainly get him killed sometime in the future. Somehow, his character does a turnaround and he becomes a better person. Though with the whole thing being just a dream, who knows.

Uncle Albert: Nathan Lane! It’s Albert Einstein with Eraserhead’s hair. He brings Mary and Max the Nutcracker and dollhouse that sets the whole plot into motion. Also, he has a weird habit of breaking the forth wall a lot of the time for no reason.

The Snow Fairy: Someone important I suppose. Doesn’t really do anything and sort of reminds me of Glinda, the Good Witch of the North, in the same fact that they did really nothing but put a girl in danger’s way.

The Rat King: John Turturro! A very creepy looking rat person, who gives off the vibe that he might be into kids. Just what this movie needed. He runs the kingdom with an iron grip and his horrible singing. Despite all of the pain and misery he causes everyone, he manages to escape with his mother at the end.

The Rat Queen: She looks a Who from the Grinch who is constantly changing her hair every scene. She really doesn’t add much to this film outside of being the one who cursed The Prince into becoming the Nutcracker. In the end, she escapes with her son into the sewers.

+ A little girl is qualified to fight an evil queen instead of any adult.
+ Albert Einstein was also a composer and singer.
+ Back in the day, orchestras sometimes played their music on trams.
+ Lying is called being economic with the truth.
+ Pillows will explode into feathers if something slightly heavy falls on them.
+ Rats are like gremlins, they don’t like light.
+ Sabotaging a helicopter while you are in it is a brilliant idea.
+ The Nutcracker also had jetpack wearing humanoid rat Nazis.

2 min – A future pyromaniac in the making.
6 min – Now we see the rats moving in position for their takeover.
9 min – MC? Oh I get it! HA HA HA HA HA! Also, did you steal that from Tim Burton?
10 min – You call that CGI?! Away with it!
12 min – Wait… no!! Don’t… DON’T! Dammit! He started singing! HORRENDOUS MUSICAL NUMBER MOMENT!
15 min – Whoa, I think you should lay off the eggnog Mary.
17 min – How much eggnog did that housekeeper have?
28 min – Yes, follow the creepy sounding ice spirits. They seem perfectly trust worthy.
29 min – And now they head off to Neverland.
32 min – Time to steal from Pinocchio!
33 min – Whoa, Xanadu and live action Grinch flashbacks all at once! What a dream come true.
35 min – *Checks DVD to make sure the right movie is in*
45 min – Well of course it is a dream. Only in dreams would any of that make sense.
48 min – Hey! She never saw the mechanical beaver rats chew through the tree!
55 min – Okay, now they are reusing footage from previous scenes.
58 min – Wait, how does she know that is the Rat King? Did she look at the script?
60 min – WTF?!
61 min – WTF again!!
68 min – Liar, I can still see the sun poking through the smog.
77 min – So no one is going to stop them. Alright, makes as much sense as everything else.
80 min – Thanks for nothing Jedi Snow Fairy Ghost.
84 min – So, how was this a good hiding spot Prince boy?
87 min – Great job, you get her captured and you couldn’t save her!
89 min – Hey! She isn’t even being held by everyone, she could make a break for it!
94 min – But they got away! They could come back at anytime! This is no time for singing!
95 min – Yes, wake up! End this crap already!
98 min – Nothing like a magic pebble to break up the awkwardness.
Ending Credits – So… what did I just watch?

Mary: Did the room get bigger or did we get smaller?
Nutcracker: If you ask me, that is a naïve question.

Mary: I can’t fly.
Snow Fairy: How do you know if you haven’t tried?

Rat Queen: Who knew someone could love a chunk of wood?

Rat Queen: And little girls in love can be very dangerous.

Mary: Look what I have! A magic pebble!


I’ve actually seen the Nutcracker preformed lived in my town’s local theater a couple of times in the past. I had a friend who was able to get me and my entire class in because she was a part of the ballet. From what I remember, it was quite nice and had a lot of enjoyable musicwith great choreography. Now, I heard about a movie adaption back in late 2010 that had a reputation for being pretty bad. However, I am not one to be put off by bad buzz, despite how terrible it is (Remember Disaster Movie?), and consider it a challenge for me to take on such a film. As such, let us venture into the feature and see what this is all about.

After some familiar Nutcracker music over the opening credits, we begin our tale in old New York City during Christmas Eve. We meet our main character, Mary, and her brother, Max, who are seeing their parents off to the opera, where her mother will be performing tonight. With their parents gone, their Uncle Albert Einstein (Yes, seriously. Don’t remember that from the play) will be watching the two of them.

With the parents gone, he gives them two presents, a giant toy house that plays music and of course, the Nutcracker. He tells them that it is very special and is sought after by someone, though he doesn’t tell who. After dinner and Max nearly breaking the Nutcracker (You do not load a nutcracker with three large walnuts kid), the kids are off to bed with Albert singing them a song about Relativity. Why are you laughing? This is serious business.

Also, there are large, crappy CGI looking rats invading the house. Don’t know why. Do they want Nutcracker? What purpose does a nutcracker serve to rats? Also, does no one notice them at all? One of them clearly ran out in front of the boy earlier. Damn his bad eyesight.

Later that night, Mary goes to look at the Nutcracker in her room and discovers that, surprise, it can talk. It also has the voice of a girl too and grows to kid size after it falls off the shelf and onto some pillows. Ever get the feeling this movie is weird? Anyhow, NC (That’s what the Nutcracker prefers to be called) needs to meet up with the dolls in the toy house the uncle brought and Mary follows him.

They enter the living room to discover everything has grown giant size. Okay, now we are actually hitting some points from the ballet. However, the thought of this movie starting to adapt the ballet properly instantly goes away when we meet the cast of the dollhouse. They include a monkey from Planet of the Apes wearing a suit, an opera singing clown, and a Jamaican drummer. Again, weird. With them rounded up, Mary and NC climb to the top of the Christmas tree in the living room to meet with the Snow Fairy, who requests of her to help them defeat the Rat Queen, who has placed the Nutcracker under a terrible curse. Then suddenly, NC turns into a real boy because… Mary… Ah… because… I dunno. The power of love, the heart of the cards; feel free to make up your own reason.

Anyhow, the Nutcracker turns into a real boy, who is the prince of some city. Apparently, his city was taken over by Nazi rat people, lead by the Rat King and his mother, the Rat Queen. They took over the kingdom and have set up smoke factories all over the area to blot out the sun, since the rats are afraid of the sun like morlocks. We actually cut there to the kingdom, where we see the actual Rat King and his Nazi rats sing a song about how awesome they are to a bunch of prisoners they have. I got nothing to say on this. Say whatever you want though.

The Rat King gets word from two of his minions that the Prince is back to normal and sends his men to kill him. Don’t know why he didn’t do that before instead of just cursing him, but regardless, they go out with the pet mechanical beaver rats to chop down the Christmas tree where everyone is. Speaking of which, Mary suggests to the Prince that he takes out the factories to make the rats flee, which he responses that is a great plan. So what took him so long to figure that out?

Suddenly, the tree comes falling down and the Prince turns back into the Nutcracker when the queen recurses him. Apparently, spells wear off if you don’t constantly renew them. As the tree falls and Mary falls with it, she wakes up back in her bed. However, it wasn’t a dream! She runs back downstairs and discovers the fallen tree and discarded Nutcracker at the base of it. She tries telling her parents about the next morning, but of course, no one believes it.

She runs up to the attic to have a good old fashion musical number crying scene. More tolerable than most musical numbers up to this point, so I give it pass. Speaking of such moments, Uncle Albert meets with Mary’s father, who asks him to not come back since he believes the uncle is filling Mary’s head with bad ideas. What’s Albert’s solution to change his mind? He sings about how the father was once a big dreamer! Doesn’t seem to work though, so oh well.

Later at night, the Nutcracker is alive again and everything seems back to normal… in comparison with everything else going on. He decides to take the fight to rats to get the curse lifted off of him permanently and enlists Mary and Max, who surprisingly just goes with it without asking any questions about what is happening and how the thing is alive. NC goes to check out the living room ahead of time and get his friends from the doll house, but is suddenly captured by the rats.

When the two kids come down, the run into the Rat King and his troops, who have captured the dolls and NC. As the rats torment the toys, Max seems to be enjoying it and getting to it. Yep, future killer in the making. In fact, when the rats take off with the dolls, he goes with them because it looks like fun. This is just… ugh.

Once everyone has left, Mary discovers the monkey doll has been left behind and goes to him. He comes with a plan to get to the kingdom to save everyone, which involves going through a mirror. Don’t how this works, but whatever. They go through and… apparently the world is like a mirrorverse of the original one, where the city and the people are similar to New York City. As they explore the area, the Nutcracker and the other dolls make their escape from captivity through the sewers of the city.

As everyone heads the center of the town for a Nazi book… toy burning, they see the Rat King performing another musical number as the kids toss their toys into the pile to be burnt. Please sir, these kids are suffering enough, must you torture them some more? When the Rat King offers the pile of toys to Max to break in front of everyone, he says no because they belong to other kids. Makes no sense since he was breaking his sister’s stuff earlier in the film, but I suppose the script has to make him somewhat likeable even if it doesn’t mean staying true to his character. The Rat King has him locked up and the rest of the toys pushed into a vent that leads to the smoke factory. What? No burning the toys in the middle of town to make a point? What kind of Nazi rats are you?

Mary follows the toys down vent and discovers the drummer and clown among the piles of toys. They tell her how NC saved by sacrificing himself to a mechanical rat beaver in order to save them. They point out the discarded body of him lying among the toys, which a bunch of rats chuck onto the conveyor belt to burn. While the dolls distract the guards, Mary saves him, but cannot get him to wake up. However, a confession of love (How long did she even know him?) and a magical teardrop brings him back to life and lifts the curse as well. Magic teardrops are incredible. You can learn to talk to animals and bring people back to life from inanimate forms like Pokémon: The First Movie. Why hasn’t science explored this yet?

With the Prince alive and back to normal, he reveals himself to the slaves in the Smoke Factory Seeing their beloved prince alive, their spirits lift and they begin to rebel against the Nazi rats, who strangely do not use their guns to fight back against them for some reason. With the smoke factory being destroyed, the Rat Queen says it is time to flee before the rebels get to them, but the Rat King will have none of that. He and a couple of his troops with their jetpacks and machinegun attached motorbikes head to the area to crush them. I’m sorry, I’m not sure if I can take this all that seriously.

The Prince hides Mary in an elevator so she won’t get hurt during all of the chaos. Seconds later, she is promptly cornered and captured by the Rat King himself. Bravo Prince. Great idea putting her in a place where she has nowhere to run. The king takes off with her to the palace and the Prince and friends chase off after them. The king and qeen reach their helicopter contraption and take Mary & Max with them as they flee the city. Don’t know why they want the two of them.

As contraption heads off, the Prince and the monkey guy board the vehicle, attacking the Rat King. Max takes control of the contraption and crashes it down into the center of the town. The prince and monkey grab hold of the king & queen, but they turn into normal rats and escape down the sewer. Great, now they come back at anytime and attack you guys once more. Regardless, it is the time for celebrating and another musical number about victory. It feels a bit hollow to me though.

The Snow Fairy suddenly appears to Mary (where the hell was she this entire film!?) and tells her it is time to go home or in this case, wake up once more. She heads off on a tram back to reality (Max is oddly not with her) and finds herself back in her home. She goes downstairs and meets with her Uncle Albert, who brought his neighbor along to meet Mary. The neighbor is a young boy with a striking resemblance to the Prince, even with the same nickname, NC. Does this mean anything? Who the hell knows! The movie then suddenly ends with them ice skating at some ice rink. Sure why not.

That was The Nutcracker: The Untold Story and well… what can I say about it? It sucked. Yeah, that sounds about right. I mean, just wow. This was nothing like the Nutcracker and has to be one of the worst adaptations of any form of medium before. The Nutcracker is a ballet and there was barely any dancing in the entire film at all! It doesn’t even mildly follow the plot of the ballet outside of a few points! What a bunch of crap.

Outside of being a terrible adaptation; the acting is bad with over the top performances [and not in a fun way] to characters having unconvincing accents, the musical numbers were forgettable to horrible, the CGI had to be some of the worst I have ever seen to come out in the past decade that wasn’t made for TV, it steals or takes plot points from other movies, the use of Nazi symbolism for the Rats was a terrible idea, there are moments that don’t add anything to actual plot, people know things they weren’t there to see, and the overall tone and imagery clashes with the fact that this is supposedly a kids film.

However, there were some positives to this movie. As bad and unremarkable as the acting was, Elle Fanning who played Mary was actually pretty good and managed to elevate the movie a bit. I also liked some of the set design, as stupid as was, with the locations; some of the costumes looked good; and an occasional makeup job was actually pretty decent. The best part, however, was the use of the actual music from the Nutcracker ballet which worked well, though some bits got overplayed a lot. Despite all of this, none of this can save this disaster.

The movie is just so terrible. I’m not as angry as I was with other bad kids’ films I’ve seen in the past, but that doesn’t really change anything for me. Even the parody of the ballet in one of the Courage the Cowardly Dog episodes was much more faithful and fun to watch then this thing. This is a film to avoid, just plain and simple. I’m certain there are other, better adaptations of the Nutcracker out there and you should just stick with those. Let’s just put this film behind us and never look at it again.


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