So closely associated are ETA Hoffmann’s 1816 story “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King” and everybody’s favorite 1892 Tchaikovsky ballet, it is downright shocking to find almost no dancing — except for an abstract motion-capture sequence — in Andrey Konchalovskiy’s 2010 “The Nutcracker in 3D.”
There are no mice in the film either.
Instead, there is a horde of nasty, human-size rats, led by John Turturro as the vicious Rat King and Nathan Lane as Drosselmeyer. Turturro sounds like somebody out of “Jersey Shore” and Lane’s accent is exaggerated, inauthentic “Viennese” — the twain shall not meet.
When it comes to the music, there are snippets from Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker,” but mostly excerpts from his fifth and sixth symphonies.
A big musical moment comes with the theme from Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1, sung by the workers storming their rat oppressors, with lyrics by Tim Rice of “Evita.”
Says the San Francisco Examiner. While screenjunkies.com write:
Finally, someone had the balls to make the holiday film we’ve all been clamoring for: a Nazi-themed version of The Nutcracker. And to top it all off, they’ve given the film a 3D conversion! I love 3D conversions. Though not as much as I love Nazi-themed holiday films.
And the indiewire.com blog has doubts about who the film is aimed at:
Taken as an adult, there’s no chance that a parent will like this. It’s not smart, it’s not funny, and it feels like an eternity—Nathan Lane and John Turturro’s winks aren’t enough to keep even the most patient entertained. This is all moot, though – parents will take their children if they want to see it and brave through whatever it is. Will kids want to see it, and will they enjoy it? It’s really hard to pin down what the youth will like, ever, and for some proof, do yourself a favor and YouTube old cartoons that used to be part of your daily activities. Without naming names, chances are they’re going to be pretty unbearable. That said, younger audiences will likely find little to latch onto, finding problems in the same exact areas adults would and likely to find it just as dull. As a personal note, one of the four times the children in this writer’s audience laughed was when another critic ran across the front row towards the bathroom, and it was the most collective laugh of the whole night.
The Huffington Post is slightly more optimistic:
The Nutcracker 3D is a bizarre concoction, mixing childish fantasy with real-world horrors in a way that almost works. I wish the film had spent more time on character and less on frenetic action, but it’s certainly a unique bit of ‘family filmmaking’ in a season dominated by animated films and CGI-infused adaptations of classic cartoons.
The New York Daily News sums it up:
The wasted 3-D imagery forgoes visions of sugarplums, offering instead a grim, steampunk setting filled with burning toys, threats of enslavement and disturbing war imagery. (Seriously, young children are likely to be terrified.) In keeping with Konchalovsky’s chain of curious choices, Tchaikovsky’s classic score has been transformed into several painfully cheesy songs from Tim Rice.
No more than loosely inspired by the original, this false “Nutcracker” offers little reason for its own existence. But it does present one unexpected advantage: You’ve just saved about $12 a ticket, which can now be put toward seeing the real thing.
- ‘The Nutcracker in 3D’: This version is a nutty idea (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- Movie Review | ‘The Nutcracker in 3D’: A Dystopian Aftertaste to Those Sugarplums (movies.nytimes.com)
- George Heymont: A Nutcracker To Shun (huffingtonpost.com)
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano’) about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman’s Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia’ column for Dancing Times magazine.