Nutcracker: The Untold Story (2010)

“… On Christmas Eve, Mary’s beloved Uncle Albert arrives with the gift of a wooden nutcracker doll. Later that night, Mary’s imagination brings the doll to life. Introducing himself as “NC,” he takes her on a wondrous journey through a stunning dimension where toys assume human form and everything appears ten times larger. But danger lurks. An army of toothy rat creatures, led by the flamboyant Rat King and his devious mother, has unleashed a plot to overthrow humanity. When NC is captured and placed under a paralytic spell, Mary, Max and a spirited band of toy sidekicks must rescue him from the Rat King’s clutches and thwart his wicked plans to ‘ratify’ the world.”

-Anonymous, IMDB

Nutcracker The Untold Story, also known as “The Nutcracker in 3D”, is a 2010 British/Hungarian production that stars among others, Elle Fanning, Nathan Lane, and John Tuturro. The film was directed by Andrei Konchalovsky, who at one point said that the film was his “Dream project”. The film was a box office bomb, and was pretty much universally panned by critics. 

The late Roger Ebert said that the film was “One of those rare holiday movies that may send children screaming under their seats”.

Some thoughts from me (Potential spoilers below…)
This movie is one of those movies where you watch it and you kinda feel like someone is pulling a prank on you. It’s just so baffling, it’s hard to reconcile some of the story beats because it doesn’t make logical sense.

First hang-up is that, instead of the traditional Godfather Drosselmeyer character, this adaptation has “Uncle Albert”… as in, Albert Einstein. The film goes out of it’s way to avoid admitting that he’s Einstein, but aside from his appearance Uncle Albert talks at length about his “theories”, and has a whole song and dance about how “Everything’s relative”.

That brings us to another major hang-up of the film, the song choices. Very few of the songs feel like they have an actual place in this narrative of the film, they’re either disconnected story wise or tonally. One of my favourite songs is the one that Uncle Albert sings to Mary’s Dad, who’s the stereotypical angry grump Dad who doesn’t believe in the power of imagination. Albert explains through song that the reason why Mary’s Dad is such a grump is because as a child he lost his favourite pebble, and the experience of losing it is what made him lose his childish innocence. It’s meant to be this turning point for Mary’s father, who up to that point has been very strict and no-nonsense towards Mary’s fanciful storytelling, and turn him around to her side. Except his strictness, while overbearing, really didn’t have any role in the story at large. The most that happened is that her father threatened to prevent Uncle Albert from visiting Mary, because he was encouraging her imagination. In the span of 5 minutes this plot point comes up, then Albert sings and then Mary’s Dad is so moved by the song about his pebble that he relents and becomes more encouraging towards Mary. Then we don’t see him for the rest of the film, not until the end when he comes in and briefly encourages Mary’s imagination.

The film really missed an opportunity to set up a Wizard of Oz-type moment where Mary’s Father is played by the same actor as the Rat King, and Mary’s Father learning to accept his daughter mirrors Mary’s triumph over the Rat King. Instead the Rat King is played by John Tuturro, who admittedly does a fantastic job chewing the scenery in the role. The Rat King and his army are yet another baffling choice in this film, as the director thought it’d be a good idea to take inspiration from Nazi imagery for their role in the film. Aside from the uniforms we see the Rat King’s army invade a peaceful city, imprison and force the citizens to work in factories, and the Rat King at one point holds a rally… it’s all very uncomfortable and not something you really wanted or expected to see in a Christmas movie.

I really could go on, there’s the weird design of the Nutcracker, the Rat King’s terrifying rat-expressions… this movie is just a train wreck. That said, all of these baffling story points make for a very entertaining film if you’re into bad movies, so if you’re on the hunt for a weird Christmas movie that’ll drive your friends nuts when you make them watch it, definitely check this one out. Maybe just don’t show this one to the especially young kids, because the Rat King can be particularly terrifying at times.

References

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