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THE NUTCRACKER AND THE FOUR REALMS
4K Ultra HD Edition

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Keira Knightley, Mackenzie Foy, Eugenio Derbez, Matthew Macfadyen, Richard E. Grant, Misty Copeland, Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman
Directors: Lasse Hallstrom, Joe Johnston
Audio: Dolby Atmos
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: Disney
Features: See Review
Length: 99 Minutes
Release Date: January 29, 2019

It’s just the laws of physics.”

Do those laws always work?”

Always…as far as I know.”

Film **1/2

It’s interesting to note that in the midst of all the live action remakes of their numerous animated classics, Disney has brought forth an incarnation of The Nutcracker, which is a story they haven’t touched outside of an animated short with Mickey Mouse. And visually speaking, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms is a dazzling wonder. In other areas, though, the results aren’t as magical.

The movie is an adaptation of both “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King” by E.T.A. Hoffman and the classic ballet courtesy of Tchaikovsky. Classic elements of the original story find their way into this movie in spurts. But most of the time, it feels more like an overdone hybrid of Harry Potter and a Tim Burton production.

Clara (Mackenzie Foy) is about to endure her first Christmas since her mother’s passing. She receives the final gift from her, which happens to be that of a locked silver egg. While attending a holiday party at the home of her godfather, Drosselmeyer (Morgan Freeman), Clara follows a mysterious trail. This trail leads her far away from the party festivities and into the land of the Four Realms.

It is there where she comes across a slew of oddly distinctive characters. Among them are the leaders of each individual realm. They are Sugar Plum (Keira Kinghtley), Hawthorne (Eugenio Derbez), Shiver (Richard E. Grant) and Mother Ginger (Helen Mirren). She also comes face to face with the actual Nutcracker soldier himself, Captain Phillip Hoffman (Jayden Fowora-Knight).

Eventually, Clara discovers that her mother was once the queen of the Four Realms, making her a princess. She is soon suited up to fight some nasty forces in the Four Realms who are wanting the very key that unlocks the mysterious egg. The most deadly of these is a monstrous mouse formation consisting of many, many mice.

If I were grading on a visual scale, this film would be getting an A+ score across the board. Every member of the production team, from set designers to the costume handlers to makeup artists to the visual effects team brought their top game to this project, and it shows. Right from the opening frame, I knew I was in for a monumental visual spectacle.

However, storywise the film is a bit of a mess. The balancing act it attempts to pull off in honoring elements of the classic Nutcracker story while also trying to be a super dark fantasy piece (again, in the vein of Tim Burton) results in the two not really gelling well together. This may have something to do with the fact that director Joe Johnston was brought on board to do many reshoots after fellow director Lasse Hallstrom completed principal photography.

But it’s not a total loss. Again, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms is a joyous visual spectacle. But as far as capturing the spirit of the story, you’ll be better off sticking with previous incarnations.

Video ****

As if my glowing take on the visuals in the film was any indication, the 4K Ultra HD release from Disney is a grandiose knockout in every way imaginable. The movie was actually shot on film (a rare occasion for a movie like this) and the transition to 4K glory is such a visually sumptuous one, that I almost want to recommend seeing it on that basis alone. Colors are eye-catching right from the get go, and picture detail is as incredibly mesmerizing in each individual frame. Certain to be one of the best looking 4K releases of the year!

Audio ****

Equal high marks for the audio quality, as the Dolby Atmos mix also does a remarkable job at practically immersing you into this entire world. Music playback is nothing short of phenomenal, and dialogue delivery is terrific and balanced out well with the other sound proceedings.

Features **

Included on the standard Blu-ray disc, the features consists of two featurettes; “Unwrapping The Nutcracker and the Four Realms” and “On Pointe: A Conversation with Misty Copeland”. We also get four minutes worth of Deleted Scenes and two Music Videos, one for “Fall on Me” by Andrea Bocelli and Matteo Bocelli and “The Nutcracker Suite” by Lana Lang.

Summary:

Visually speaking, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms is a glorious masterpiece. Storywise, the same cannot be said. But the viewing experience is anything but forgettable, especially if you’re fortunate to see the movie in the wonderful 4K Ultra HD release that Disney has provided!

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