The Nutcracker in 3D

 
Big-screen remake of ballet is too dark for little kids.
  • Review Date: November 25, 2010
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Family and Kids
  • Release Year: 2010
  • Running Time: 110 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Many positive messages, including how grown-ups shouldn’t lose touch with their whimsical side just because “real life” has overtaken the magic of childhood. Also, that children and their ability to believe in the fantastic have much to teach adults. Plus, that toys are to be cherished and cared for, not trashed and treated as if they have no value.

Positive role models

Mary is feisty and will protect those she cares for; she also demands to be heard, which offers an example to children who may feel like they have no voice. Uncle Albert is joyful in demeanor. But the Rat King is petty and power-hungry. His mother is devious and uncaring, and even young Max shows off his naughty, destructive side (though he does gain an appreciation for his sister in the end).

Violence

A man is shown whacking others with a shovel. Machine gun-bearing soldiers roam the streets. The Rat King enjoys taking photos of kids crying after their toys are confiscated and burned; he hangs the pictures on the wall. The Rat Queen bites her son’s ear. Soldiers kidnap the Rat King’s enemies, some of whom are children, and throw them in a cage. A boy likes to destroy toys. A character uses a man’s head to crack a walnut with force.

Sex
Not applicable
Language

In one instance it sounds as if the Rat Queen says “whore.”

Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

A talking monkey smokes a cigar.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this version of the classic Nutcracker holiday tale bears only a passing resemblance to the famous ballet and story that inspired it. Viewers expecting the whimsy of the original may be downright confused, enraged and -- if they’re 8 and under -- frightened. Here, the Rat King is a Hitler-like villain with the desire to burn children’s toys and a combative relationship with a dysfunctional mother (she bites his ear out of anger). Other disturbing scenes include a drummer boy (who appears human) whose head is yanked off and tossed around. Soldiers are shown wielding machine guns, and one character smokes a cigar. And the 3-D presentation makes some of the scary parts even more intense.

What's the story?

The holiday season seems so much brighter for 9-year-old Mary (Elle Fanning) after a visit from wild-maned Uncle Albert (Nathan Lane), who tells wondrous stories and brings with him a gift: a nutcracker. Unlike most gifts, the nutcracker -- NC for short -- is truly magical: He comes to life and takes Mary with him on a fantastical journey to his homeland. She soon discovers that NC was once a real-life prince (Charlie Rowe) who was put under the spell of an evil Rat Queen (Frances de la Tour) and her son (John Turturro), who has made himself king of the prince’s land. The Rat King wants the prince dead so that he can reign in terror. And because he’s scared of the sun, he continues to burn all of the children’s toys so that a cloud of smoke will hang over his domain. But Mary’s not having it, and neither is the prince. Even Mary’s naughty brother comes to the rescue in this movie based on the E.T.A. Hoffman story and Tchaikovsky ballet.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

Remaking a classic rarely happens without controversy, especially so when it's a story (or ballet) as entrenched as The Nutcracker. And, unfortunately, THE NUTCRACKER IN 3D by no means does justice to the original (far from it, in fact, with little dancing and some lyrics -- yes, lyrics -- pegged onto Tchaikovsky’s music). The 3-D effects seem unnecessary and -- frankly -- perhaps tacked on to generate a few extra dollars at the box office.

And for a film that’s clearly intended to appeal to kids, this Nutcracker feels too apocalyptic and dark, with its references to Nazi Germany, for younger viewers (though Turturro, who’s almost always pitch-perfect, is puzzling rather than scary as the evil Rat King). Still, Fanning is a delight as Mary, managing to infuse the production with some semblance of wonder. And though the story here has been diluted at best, its underlying message of the beauty of a child’s imagination still rings true. That’s a relief.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how this movie compares to other versions of The Nutcracker. Is it scarier? Why? What audience do you think it's intended to appeal to?

  • What made Joseph forget what he was like as a young boy? Do you think parents sometimes act like they’ve never been kids? What's the message behind this storyline?

  • Does the Rat King seem scary or troubled?

  • What does the Nutcracker mean to Mary? Is he a figment of her imagination? Why did he appear?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:November 24, 2010
DVD release date:November 1, 2011
Cast:Elle Fanning, John Turturro, Nathan Lane
Director:Andrei Konchalovsky
Studio:Freestyle Releasing
Genre:Family and Kids
Topics:Magic and fantasy, Arts and dance, Holidays
Run time:110 minutes
MPAA rating:PG
MPAA explanation:thematic material, scary images, action and brief smoking

This review of The Nutcracker in 3D was written by

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Parent of a 7 and 10 year old Written byellimatu November 30, 2010
age 13+
 

please stop the horrifying images for kids

please take your child to see the nutcracker at the ballet or at least watch it on PBS. It is so magical, beautiful, makes a child wonder and think and find beauty. This movie has so many horrifying images - kids get enough of the terrible images on TV these days. There are things in this movie that scared me!
What other families should know
Too much violence
Kid, 11 years old November 29, 2011
age 10+
 

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What other families should know
Great role models
Teen, 13 years old Written bySomeoneYouDon'tKnow December 8, 2012
age 9+
 

A fairly decent dark fantasy

I have never seen any classic Nutcracker films or ballets, and I never read the story, and I never plan to. But then I came across this infamous box-office bomb. I was uninterested at first, but then I saw that John Turturro played the villain. Now that was very interesting. I love his flamboyancy and thick Boston accent, so any movie he's in will have me interested. So I checked out the trailer, and my god, did it look cool. There were giant helicopters with long robotic legs, motorcycles with gattling guns on them, and some badass looking rat-humans. And I got exited as heck. I thought it was going to be a groundbreaking epic. I got it on blu-ray and watched it on my flat-screen TV, and it looked awesome. But I must say, I don't think it quite achieved the epic status it strained for. I mean, not to say it isn't good, but it's very muddled. First off, it's not as fluffy and whimsical as the poster suggests, and it's not quite as epic and adventurous as the trailer suggests. It does have some elements of both, but they're handled very unevenly. Basically, the film just doesn't know what it wants to be or who it's aiming at. When they're in the human world, everything is all dumbed-down and kiddish, but when they enter Ratworld, things get creepy, dank, and darkly humorous. Plus, NC himself is VERY annoying, with his high-pitched, scratchy voice and strange hat, which is unfortunate, because his visual effects are pretty cool. The rest of the acting is average at best, but the best performances come from Turturro as the evil Rat King and Nathan Lane as Uncle Albert (who I guess is supposed to be Albert Einstein for some reason). They both appear to be having enormous fun in their roles, and I really think they hit the note. Elle Fanning and Charlie Rowe are not the best, but you can definitely see that they're trying, and plus, they're just kids (I didn't see Shirley Temple bringing home any Oscars). On top of that, the dialogue is rather cheesy, a bit too funny when it should be serious and a bit too strange when it should be funny. The songwriting is also fairly mediocre, especially the ones tied on to Tchaikovsky's instrumental songs. The only songs that I really enjoyed were the Rat King's songs, which were delightfully creepy and humorous. So the film is really rollar-coaster in terms of quality. The big thing about this movie that everybody seemed to hate was the fact that it showed very little resemblance of a balllet, and that it was far too dark for something as whimsical and sweet as The Nutcracker. For me, however, those are the film's two biggest selling points. I hate ballets more that life itself, and if there were much more than a few brief dance scenes in the movie, I'd probably hang myself. And it is indeed quite dark, with the Rat King's soldiers bearing striking similarities to Nazis, and all the pictures of crying children hanging up on his wall, and a particularly infamous scene where he electrocutes his pet shark just for the heck of it. But I thought this all added to the atmosphere of the film, which was very nice. The special effects, production design and makeup were just amazing to look at, and they really brought some life into the feel of the story. So in the end, this movie is not perfect, but at least it's beautifully filmed and has a decent story. It certainly wasn't the enormous turkey that the critics called it, but I can't say that it's for everyone. If you're looking for something sweet and enchanting, go see some stage versions of the story. But if you want something dark, action-packed, and visually stunning, then this film is right up your ally.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking

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