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.