Merry Christmas, everyone! For PEPS’s The 2nd Happy Holidays Blogathon, I have chosen to breen the Disney Christmas film, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms (2018). While I have seen many unusual adaptations of The Nutcracker, this one certainly takes the cake. The trailer promised “a darker side” to “the legend you know,” but this side was so dark it took over the whole film. After seeing the film, I realized that it probably wasn’t the best choice for a blogathon about the holidays. This film hadn’t the slightest bit of Christmas cheer to it, and it gave me the feeling of one of Tim Burton’s live action pieces, such as Alice in Wonderland. In fact, I’m certain that was their intention, as Keira Knightley bore a striking resemblance to Helen Bonham Carter, a Burton film regular, in this role. However, while breening cannot make this a good Christmas film or a good adaptation of The Nutcracker, it could at least make it a fantasy film acceptable for all ages. Now, the theater hushes, the lights dim, and the screen dances to life. Get ready to dance through a breening adventure because, here comes The Nutcracker and the Four Realms!
The first problem occurs right at the beginning. The film opens with an owl flying over wintry London. After passing over the city, the owl suddenly flies toward a hole in a wall and tries to catch a mouse hiding there. The shot of the owl flying straight toward the camera, beak open, is too violent and a bit frightening. Instead, the owl should be shown going after the mouse from the back. Then, the camera can zoom over the owl and follow the mouse as in the existing scene.
The next problem occurs significantly later in the film, shortly after Clara (Mackenzie Foy) first enters the Four Realms. When a mischievous mouse steals the key to her Christmas present from her late mother, she follows him into the frightening Fourth Realm. The mouse escapes down a hole in the ground and, as she is kneeling at the hole, demanding that it give back the key, a huge silhouette appears behind her in the distance. When she finally turns around, we see that it is a giant, monstrous mouse, which picks her up and begins carrying her away. It is then revealed that it is merely a figure made up of thousands of mice, with their leader, Mouserinks, at the top of it. This is frightening and disturbing and must be changed. Instead, Mouserinks and his fellow mice should form what is known as a “mouse king,” and what inspired the multiple-headed Mouse King of the original story “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King.” A significantly decreased number of mice should link tails to form a large moving mass which could get under Clara’s feet and carry her away on top of them.
One of the most disturbing things in this film to me was the giant, mechanical Mother Ginger which served as the real Mother Ginger’s dwelling. While I can appreciate that this idea stemmed from the huge Mother Ginger with clowns beneath her skirt from the ballet, I found it quite horrifying. I was tempted, at first, to just cut it out. However, since it is an important element of the story and plays a large part in the battle later on, I decided that I had to leave it in. In view of this, I will merely insist that the face be made less frightening, particularly the weird, staring eyes, and the voice be made less deep and monotone.
When Clara and the nutcracker, Captain Philip Hoffman (Jayden Fowora-Knight) attempt to cross the bridge to the palace, they are halted by two guards. These guards are both wearing too much makeup and have a very effeminate manner. While I do understand that the makeup is to make them look like toy soldiers come to life, it must not look so feminine. Also, while they may be foolish and a bit cowardly, they must not be effeminate in any way.
As a general note, all of the soldiers are wearing too much makeup, thus giving them an effeminate appearance. Their makeup should suggest toy soldiers, but not women.
When Philip and Clara enter the palace courtyard, we can see two statues of scantily clad, winged women. These statues, while not entirely naked, are wearing only the thinnest of scarves, and they are indecently exposed. They must be properly clothed.
Clara soon meets the regents of the other three realms: Sugar Plum (Keira Knightley) of the Land of Sweets, Hawthorne (Eugenio Derbez) of the Land of Flowers, and Shiver (Richard E. Grant) of the Land of Snowflakes. Hawthorne is quite literally dressed in flowers, and his manner is equally flowery. Shiver, while less obviously effeminate, is also a bit prissy in his demeanor. Having a man as regent of the Land of Flowers seems a bit odd, so Hawthorne’s character should be changed to a woman. While Shiver’s effeminate manner could merely be removed, he would be left as the only male regent. The best way to rectify the situation would be to make his character a woman, as well.
Sugar Plum’s lavish purple dress has a rather low neckline. It must be raised to ensure that she is not exposed.
When Hawthorne and Shiver suggest that they have a pageant for Clara and give her a tour of the Realms, Sugar Plum suddenly sprouts a pair of huge wings and flutters of the floor, excitedly saying that she loves pageants. Her wings, which are seen more later in the film, are a bit too much like insect wings, especially when she’s fluttering them, and the way they pop out at random moments is a bit startling. They should be permanent fixtures on her back so that they don’t shock anyone too much by suddenly appearing. Also, they should not look so much like giant insect wings, since this could frighten people who are afraid of bugs. They should be a bit smaller and look more like Tinkerbell and the other Disney fairies’ wings.
Shortly after this, Sugar Plum offers to show her the real world from the perspective of the realms by going out with the figurines on Drosselmeyer’s clock. As Clara observes the Christmas party from high above, we see a party guest wearing a very low neckline. The lady’s neckline must be raised, and it should be ensured that all the women’s necklines are decent at the party.
Later, when Clara first appears before the royal court in a new, fancier dress, there are paintings of nearly nude statues on either side of her. These paintings must be clothed properly.
Sugar Plum than presents Clara with a ballet that tells the story of the Four Realms, starring an anonymous ballerina (Misty Copeland). The ballerina’s neckline is too low and must be raised to ensure she is not exposed.
As they are watching the section of the ballet set in the Fourth Realm, Sugar Plum suddenly reaches into her cotton candy-like hair, pulls off a piece and begins eating it nervously. This is disgusting and must be eliminated.
After this, there is yet another shot of unacceptable statues wearing sheer scarves. They must be properly clothed.
As Clara is about to lead a march on the Fourth Realm, the two guards from the bridge appear and ask to come along. They are now without their hats, and we see that one has very long, curly hair, while the other has no hair on one side of his head and a sort of bob on the other. Their hair should be made more normal.
When Clara leads the soldiers in a march on the Fourth Realm, she is giving all the orders, while Philip merely rides beside her. He is the soldier and should be the one giving orders, as Clara tells him what she thinks they ought to do.
As they walk through the dark, spooky Fourth Realm, soldiers begin falling into holes in the ground. Clara soon falls into one and, as Philip tries to hold onto her hand, mice crawl all over her. Soon, they sweep her down the hole, along a tunnel, and finally up again, before scattering in all directions. Having mice crawling on her is distasteful and should be removed. She should merely fall down the hole, go along the tunnel, and come up again through some sort of magic.
When Clara enters Mother Ginger’s tent, she is immediately confronted by horrifying clowns. These clowns are fashioned after Russian nesting dolls, as they split in half and appear from inside each other. Their faces are demonic, their heads, arms, and legs pop in and out at will, their heads spin around on their necks, they often move by rolling rather than just walking, and their voices are horrific. They’re ability to split in half causes horrifying things such as one of them catching Philip’s sword in it’s middle during a later fight. They can roll along like stones because of their ability to pull their heads and limbs into their bodies. These clowns are extremely frightening and disturbing and must be revised considerably. The idea of scary clowns is a bit problematic in the first place, but with revision, they could be acceptable. Firstly, their faces, with horrible makeup and scary masks, must be made less frightening and more like normal clowns. Secondly, they must not split in half, retract their limbs, or have heads that can spin around. Thirdly, they should walk normally rather than rolling. Finally, their voices should be more normal, rather than high-pitched, terrifying, and not definitely either gender. In addition, they must not be filmed in such an invasive way. They have their faces right in the camera lens half the time, thus making them even more terrifying. They should be shot from a farther angle. After all, while the Fourth Realm is frightening at the moment, it used to be the Land of Amusement, not the Land of Terror.
After this, Clara finally comes face to face with Mother Ginger (Helen Mirren). Her face, which I have heard described as “cracked porcelain” is too horrifying. Her face may look like a slightly strange porcelain doll, but it should not have those horrible black cracks in it.
When Clara brings Sugar Plum the key, the regent reveals that she is actually the one who wants to take over the Four Realms. She begins creating an army of tin soldiers, giant, mindless toys who will only listen to her. However, she not only begins acting evil, she begins acting strangely seductive and trampy. Although they are merely robotic pawns, she acts as though she’s flirting with the tin soldiers, from the moment she first says, “Hello, boys.” Her manner should be evil, power-hungry, and disturbed, but not trampy and suggestive.
As Hawthorne and Shiver are locked up in the highest part of the castle along with Philip and Clara, Hawthorne exclaims, “Oh, my God!” This is taking the Lord’s name in vain and must be removed.
After this, we see Sugar Plum continuing to build her army. Speaking to herself more than anyone else, she delivers a monologue about having a proper army to maintain discipline, control, etc. At the end of the monologue she says, “Boys in uniforms with weapons. Sends a quiver right through me.” This line is unacceptable and must be removed.
The next time we see Sugar Plum, she has pushed the sleeves of her dress off the shoulders, thus adding to her new, seductive manner. This is unacceptable and must be changed. If it is necessary to show an outward manifestation of her new persona, she could have slightly different makeup and possibly even have changed into a slightly different dress. However, Keira Knightley did a very good job of portraying the change in the character with merely her expression and manner, and a change to her costume is hardly necessary.
Mother Ginger sends her giant mechanical doll walking through the forest as a decoy to distract Sugar Plum and her army. As the soldiers attack, they begin crawling all over the giant figure, as it tries to knock them off with its giant hands and even an uprooted tree. Finally, they overcome the doll, and it collapses. The soldiers crawling on the doll reminded me of ants attacking some larger animal, and I found it quite disgusting. The soldiers should charge the doll with their swords, throw things at it, possibly with a catapult, or shoot at it with cannons. However, they should not crawl on it.
During the final battle, as Mother Ginger fights the tin soldiers with a whip, she yanks off a soldier’s arm and sends it flying, only to stick into a barrel by the sword still clutched in its hand. This is violent and should be removed.
Shortly after this, Sugar Plum finally manages to capture Mother Ginger with the intention of turning her back into a toy. When Mother Ginger pleads with Sugar Plum not to do what she is planning, the evil regent mockingly flicks her fingernail on her teeth before saying, “Put her on the platform.” This gesture seems a bit vulgar and should be removed.
Although credits aren’t really the business of the PCA, I feel I should mention the scene playing behind the credits of the main characters. This scene shows Misty Copeland and her partner Sergei Polunin dancing about in very risque costumes. He is wearing nothing but white tights and she is wearing a lace dress lined with skin-colored material. This scene also features a shirtless man doing hip-hop to music from The Nutcracker. Her dress must be lined with white, and he should be wearing a top and some sort of modesty briefs or pants. The hip-hop should be eliminated entirely.
This concludes my breening of The Nutcracker and the Four Realms. I haven’t breened many modern films, and I must say that this is one of the first films which has actually disturbed me as a viewer, rather than merely bothering me as a self-regulator. The giant Mother Ginger, the horrifying clowns, and the giant Mouse King were the most frightening elements, as I had expected. In fact, after just seeing the trailers, I was a little afraid to watch this film. After considering it, I am convinced that Disney was planning a fantasy thriller film about Four Realms. Then, to increase marketing, they decided to stick a nutcracker in the title, incorporate some of Tchaikovsky’s music into the score, and include some characters and elements from the ballet. This is merely a hypothesis, but I think it is a probable one. If this was Disney’s scheme, it didn’t succeed, as the film still wasn’t a success. I think nothing fits this film more accurately than a quote from narrator Deems Taylor in the Disney film Fantasia, “Incidentally, you won’t see any nutcracker on the screen. There’s nothing left of him but the title.”
In conclusion, I will usually point out a film could have been a wonderful, entertaining movie for the whole family with just a few revisions. However, I’m afraid that I can’t say that for this film. While breening would have improved it vastly, not all films made during the Code era were necessarily brilliant from an artistic standpoint. If this film had been made under the guidance of the PCA, I’m afraid it would have been one of those films which, despite being “reasonably acceptable to reasonable people” was still just mediocre. With so-so acting, a weak, garbled plot, and not much of The Nutcracker or Christmas, I’m afraid this movie is not the perfect holiday gift for any filmgoer. However, I hope you enjoyed my breening article and agree that all these points would definitely have improved this film. I hope you won’t forget to read all the other great entries in The 2nd Happy Holidays Blogathon, and I wish you all a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year!
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