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The Nutcracker Prince
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Nutcracker Prince is a 1990 adaptation of the ETA Hoffman story "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King." One of the bigger concerns for parents is the overall scariness of the Mouse King. His voice and general behavior seems tailor-made to give nightmares to younger kids. For parents expecting more songs and ballet, this scariness coupled with the battle scenes between the Nutcracker's army and the Mouse King's will be off-putting. There are other moments of mild cartoon violence throughout, but on the whole, this version of the Nutcracker features songs, dancing, and forays into magical realism. It isn't the best introduction to The Nutcracker, but for fans especially, it's an interesting version.
What's the story?
Clara (Megan Follows) receives a Nutcracker for Christmas from the toymaker Drosselmeier. Drosselmeier tells Clara the story of how this Nutcracker was once a Prince named Hans who was turned into a nutcracker by an evil Mouse King, and now only gets to be Prince over other toys. That night, Clara has visions of The Nutcracker brought back to life as a Prince (voiced by Kiefer Sutherland) who must lead the other toys to battle against the evil Mouse King, who will stop at nothing to be King of the Dolls. If the Prince can win, the curse will be lifted from him. As the battles rage, Clara must decide if she wants to be shrunk to the size of a toy and live in the kingdom of dolls, or if she should remain as a little girl.
Is it any good?
Parents and kids expecting more songs and ballet dancing will be surprised by the battle scenes and overall scariness of The Mouse King in THE NUTCRACKER PRINCE. While there are songs and dancing, the battle scenes, coupled with the strange and abrupt shift in style and tone from a Don Bluth-style of animation into a Rocky and Bullwinkle/Fractured Fairy Tales-style animation during a flashback sequence early in the movie, is enough to make this off-putting, to say the least. Not that it's terrible, but if you're looking for more of an introduction to The Nutcracker, this isn't the best place to start.
It's a bit slow in parts, and for younger kids, the mix of scariness of the Mouse King as well as some of the intricacies of the storyline make this a bit tough for them. The voice and overall demeanor of the Mouse King might even make adults shudder. Still, for fans of The Nutcracker in general, there's much to enjoy through the songs and the imaginative dream sequences.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about The Nutcracker. How is this one similar to and different from other versions you've seen?
What are your thoughts on the change in style and tone of the animation when Dosselmeier tells Clara the story of Hans?
What are the ways in which "dream reality" and "magical realism" are brought to life in this movie?
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