It’s Clara’s first Christmas without her mother, and while her father seems determined to act as if nothing has changed, for Clara, the world no longer makes sense.
I’m more team Krampus than Christmas, the sort to think the Grinch has some pretty valid points, so a sweet, cutesy Christmas movie tends to be a source of mockery for me. 'The Nutcracker' has all the hallmarks of a mock-a-palooza: cutesy voices, fluffy dresses, houses so big no one ever finds the inter-dimensional portal. And yet… this is a hard movie to hate.
Though it’ll certainly appeal to the Christmassy types, there’s enough action and intrigue to keep us Grinchy sorts amused, too. Through it all, ‘The Nutcracker’ is a wonderful modern introduction to a beautiful short story and a classic ballet performance. Misty Copeland does an amazing job at making ballet in a YA cutesy-action flick cool, which deserves a fair amount of respect.
Keira Knightley plays the most irritatingly squeaky fluffy dress wearer imaginable, but it is worth gritting your teeth through what may be the year’s best portrayal of a helium huffing asthmatic to get through this movie. All ‘round badass Helen Mirren plays the whip cracking Mother Ginger, out to conquer the four realms with an army of snarky mice and some seriously creepy clowns, giving the movie a rather weird 'RED' vibe, minus the gigantic gun.
Mackenzie Foy plays Clara, the main character who manages to not get mentioned in the movie’s title, but who does an amazing job at taking what could have been yet another cheesy Christmas nostalgia-fest and giving it some grit. I’m not sure I buy the whole ‘new kind of Disney Princess’ vibe being sold around her character (near as I can tell, the only difference is the lack of singing), but overall, Mackenzie gives a solid, engaging portrayal of a young girl trying to figure out life without a loved one.
Surprisingly, this isn’t the sort of Christmas movie that’ll leave parents wanting to slam their heads against the nearest brick wall if the kids demand repeated viewings; a Christmas miracle in and of itself. And while you might want to lob asthma inhalers at the screen from time to time, overall, it’s a highly enjoyable way to kick off your Christmas movie marathons.