3 December 2010 | TheLittleSongbird
Visually spellbinding but charmless family fare
When I first heard of this film, I was both curious and overjoyed. The Nutcracker by ETA Hoffmann is one of my all-time favourite stories you see, and I am deeply in love with the ballet music by Tchaikovsky. However, when I heard there was 3D I wasn't as enthused. So what were my overall thoughts after seeing it? That of bitter disappointment, that's what.
The Nutcracker in 3D isn't without its virtues though. The film is visually spellbinding with wonderful sets and exquisite costumes particularly at the beginning and with the snow fairy. Also Elle Fanning is very good as Mary, instead of being obnoxious and annoying, she is heartfelt and believable.
However, I wasn't so taken with the effects, which brings me to a point I made earlier. I think the 3D was unnecessary to be honest. When I think of The Nutcracker, 3D is the last thing you expect. Sadly, it wasn't that good, it needed more clarity and sharpness and distracted rather than enhanced.
I also had mixed feelings on the songs. The music itself is outstanding, well it is Tchaikovsky what do you expect, with elegant and poignant melodies. The problem lay in the lyrics, even for Tim Rice they were really quite dull and insipid. The only songs that didn't leave me completely cold were My Secret World-while too short the melody based on the beautiful and nostalgic 2nd movement of the 5th symphony was amazing- and The Rat King's song which was quite wacky.
My main problems though with the film were with the story, writing and acting, also with the direction. Andrey Konchalovskiy said he had wanted to do this project for years, somehow that fact didn't come through loud and clear enough. The action is also very clumsy, and the pacing is much too rushed. Consequently the story instead of magical and charming like it promised with a touch of darkness and austerity to emphasize the reality is convoluted and messy particularly when the film's tone shifts, while the script especially with Uncle Albert and the "Nazi rats" is terrible with no sense of wonder or care.
The acting on the whole is pretty dire, which is very disappointing considering how good the cast looked on paper. Fanning of course gives a great performance, which is more than I can say for her co-stars who either give up half-way through or come across as wasted talent. Nathan Lane in particular tries hard but his spirited performance is hampered severely by the film's worst dialogue and the patchy accent. John Tuturo, with a David Bowie-like wig, fares a little better but does verge on overracting. It is not entirely his fault as the script lets him down terribly making him come across as cartoony. Likewise with Frances DeLa Tour. I liked the Snow Fairy though, she was beautiful and suitably mysterious. Shirley Henderson is okay as Nutcracker, but I didn't find Nutcracker heroic enough, and the message seemed to originate from Uncle Albert rather than Nutcracker here. Worst is the Prince, his wooden acting makes marionettes more animated. At the end of the day, I only cared character-wise for Mary.
Also, I think the film is 15 minutes too long. The Nutcracker works better in my view as a 75 minute film, because of the length there was a lot of filler that perhaps didn't need to be there. I wish to say before I am told I am being unfair that I am well aware this was an untold story. Also I didn't mind whether it was the story or not, so long as it stuck with its charm and magic. And that was my main problem with The Nutcracker in 3D, it didn't do that. I didn't think much of the title either, something like Nutcracker:The Untold Story would have been much more fitting.
Overall, in my personal opinion The Nutcracker in 3D is this year's biggest disappointment. It had all the ingredients for a worthwhile Christmas cracker, but it came across as rather charmless family fare with a convoluted story, poor acting on the whole and the unnecessary inclusion of 3D. 3/10 for the production values, Tchaikovsky's music and Elle Fanning, and I also think if Hoffmann or Tchaikovsky were alive to see this they would ask for a letter of apology. Bethany Cox