The Nutcracker in 3D

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
The Nutcracker in 3D Movie Poster Image
Big-screen remake of ballet is too dark for little kids.
  • PG
  • 2010
  • 110 minutes

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 8 reviews

Kids say

age 10+
Based on 5 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

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 & Representations

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).


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.


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

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A talking monkey smokes a cigar.

What 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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byA Joseph Hellyer July 23, 2019

Cracked and nutty

A very disappointing mess of bad songs, poorly conceived characters and a bloated, unnecessarily complex and unpleasant narrative. Hardly anything like the orig... Continue reading
Adult Written bykmriscos November 22, 2015


I found this version of the movie bland compared to its other versions. It did not need to be upbeat and strictly fairytale like but it could have done a bette... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written byiwilloffmyself February 9, 2019
Teen, 15 years old Written byMichaella M. September 11, 2013


i don't care what people think it's a fantastic movie i would watch it every day and love the songs! it's amazing lovely christmas movie

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?

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). Remaking a classic rarely happens without controversy, especially so when it's a story (or ballet) as entrenched as The Nutcracker. 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.

Talk to your kids 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

Our editors recommend

For kids who love fantasy

Themes & Topics

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