Title: The Nutcracker In 3D
Director: Andrei Konchalovsky
Starring: Elle Fanning, Charlie Rowe, John Turturro, Frances De La Tour, Aaron Michael Drozin, Nathan Lane, Richard E. Grant, Julie Vysotskaya
Plot: Set in 1920s Vienna where nine-year old Mary (Fanning) is given a Nutcracker doll by her uncle Albert (Lane) which is brought to life via her imagination. Together they travel to a magical dimension were toys are human and where the evil Rat King (Turturro) and his army threaten to overthrow humanity.
Review: A favourite of my good friend Emily, who it seems is on a one woman campaign to champion the hell out of this movie, not because it is any good but more because of how spectacularly awful it is, as she highlighted when she came on the podcast recently for the "Alt. Christmas Special" so really it was only a question of time before I gave in to temptation and watched it. One of the equally fascinating aspects of this film is that it was a pet project of Director Konchalovsky who is best known for “Runaway Train” and “Tango and Cash” and would spend over 20 years trying to get it developed though having seen the end results there is an overwhelming feeling that you kind of wished he hadn’t bothered.
One of the main problems with this film (and there are certainly more than a few) is that its tone is so confused it’s hard to tell if Konchalovsky had anyone else in mind other than himself when it came to his target audience, as here we have scenes of childlike fantasy slotted alongside holocaust and fascist imagery, which only becomes more confusing when the plotting is so sporadic and loosly strung together that your never quite sure what it is your watching, much less if the script actually existed to begin with or were the actors just being given notes on how to play things.
Of course things take a turn for the strange pretty early on, as the traditional setting is mixed up with the introduction of Uncle Albert who is none other than the world renown physicist Albert Einstein. Why him? Who knows as like so many aspects of this film it is never explained, but here he is and atleast played by Lane with some element of fun and perhaps a hint of Mary Poppins. Randomly breaking the fourth wall when the urge grabs him for no reason other than to seemingly highlight well nothing it would seem he is also the most interesting character in the film especially when bursting into a song about his theories of relativity… I mean who knew he was so musical?
Rivalling him though has to be the truly insane rat king portrayal by Turturro who equally seems to also be having the most fun here, whose fascist regime comes with some worrying comparisons to the Nazi’s especially as he commands his creates pyres of toys to burn in his factories to block out the sun as part of his great plans for world domination. At the same he emphases his evil nature by bursting into “Cabaret” inspired song and dance inspired routines, including one which climaxes in him electrocuting his own pet shark! Still not sure about the logic of this move whether it was to lose the Bond villain comparisons or generally just further emphasise his evil nature. As such it ends up yet another random plot point and one of the shopping list of things which is never explained so done with any kind of rational reasoning.
Still if this wasn’t bad enough his face also warps into a demonic rat head when he gets angry which was kind of shocking to myself so god knows what the kids made of those scenes, as after all this is supposed to be a family film. This is of course only topped by him random decapitating the Jamaican drummer boy before tossing the head around in a warped game of catch. Okay the Jamaican boy is supposed to be a toy brought to life like the rest of this world inhabitants, but seeing how they don’t resemble anything toy like, its hard to see this as anything other abit of gratuitous (yet blood free) violence.
The majority of the music is taken from Tchaikovsky’s original music for “The Nutcracker” which then have lyrics added by none other than Broadway legend Tim Rice. That’s right kids the same guy who is responsible for giving us the likes of Evita and The Lion King was also involved in this creative car crash. Clearly he never saw the “Star Wars Holiday Special” as he would have known have that adding words to popular classics never turns out well, I mean who could forget Carrie Fisher warbling about life day to the Star Wars theme?!? Still regardless of his song writing credentials the songs here vary between forgettable and annoying with some even managing to straddle the two.
Too weird for mass consumption and too tedious for the most part for the open minded, this is the kind of movie that you watch with the intention of generally tearing it apart and making your own amusement from as to watch it in a more traditional sense is just sheer madness as this is one dream project which is just more of a nightmare while leaving you no doubt feeling that the twenty plus years he waited to make it weren’t nearly long enough!