by Mel Valentin
If you miss one family-oriented film this season, make it "The Nutcracker in 3D," a poorly conceived, even more poorly executed fantasy film based on Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky's ballet "The Nutcracker" (but without the ballet). Directed by Andrey Konchalovskiy ("House of Fools," "The Odyssey," "Tango and Cash," "Runaway Train," "Maria’s Lovers"), who co-wrote the adaptation with Chris Solimine, "The Nutcracker in 3D" has little to recommend it, certainly not a storyline that turns the villains, anthropomorphic rats, into fascists (Nazis, more or less), not CG-heavy visuals that look and feel unfinished and unpolished (because they are), not the cringe-inducing dialogue, and definitely not the characters, characters that range from the blandly forgettable to the offensively unremarkable. Add to that post-conversion 3D (as opposed to native 3D) and the end result is a holiday film to avoid.Set in early 20th-century Vienna, Austria, The Nutcracker in 3D centers on Mary (Elle Fanning). Mary has everything, well almost everything, an upper-class preteen girl could want: material comforts, servants, and loving parents. Her father (Richard E. Grant), presumably a businessman of some kind, has, however, little patience for Mary’s overactive, hyperactive imaginative tangents. Like most (bad) parents (in fiction, if not in real life), Mary’s father wants her to grow up and leave her childish things behind, even though, of course, she’s still a child. Her mother (Yuliya Vysotskaya), an opera singer, disagrees, but follows her husband’s lead. Mary’s younger brother, Max (Aaron Michael Drozin), is spoiled, bratty, but otherwise tolerable.
"The first must-miss movie of the holiday season."
Royalty calls on Mary’s mother to perform one night near Christmas, leaving Mary and Max in the care of eccentric uncle, Albert (Nathan Lane). If the name’s not a tip-off, then the gray-haired fright wig and an awkward, impromptu song about relativity are: he’s meant as a goofy analogue of Albert Einstein (who was, not incidentally, Jewish, and unlikely to celebrate Christmas). Albert gifts Mary and Max with a dollhouse. He also gives Mary the “nutcracker” of the title. All seems rooted in the recognizably real world until Mary falls asleep and the nutcracker (voiced by Shirley Henderson) comes alive, albeit in crude CG-form, and, true to unoriginal form, changes Mary’s life forever (or at least for one night).
After introducing the now-animated occupants of the dollhouse, including Gielgud (Peter Elliott/ Daniel Peacock, voiced by Alan Cox), a talking chimpanzee, and Sticks (Africa Nile), a Caribbean-accented drummer of African descent, NC, as he likes to call himself (insert collective groan here), convinces Mary to help him on his quest to become human again. The first part of their unengaging journey takes them to the top of the Christmas tree and a meeting with the Snow Fairy (Yuliya Vysotskaya again), who reveals the Rat Queen (Frances de la Tour) cursed NC to wooden form. The Rat King (John Turturro) deposed and exiled NC/the prince (Charlie Rowe), the royal ruler of a Vienna-like city. The Rat King is an insecure autocrat with mommy issues. Hateful and fearful of sunlight, as apparently rats are, the Rat King gathered up all the toys in the city and burned them (and continues to burn) to create black smoke cloud to obscure the sun.That’s all you need to know about "The Nutcracker’s" storyline. It’s the usual scrapes, escapes, captures, and escapes, hamstrung by flaccid pacing and, as already mentioned, ill-executed visuals, sub-par songs (and one or two dances), mediocre to awful performances (Turturro as the Rat King falling in the second category), uneven voice work, including the head-scratching decision to split the voice work for NC (Shirley Henderson’s unconvincing as a preteen boy), redundant secondary characters (the dollhouse’s occupants), and a young actress, Elle Fanning, floundering in a sea of clichéd, cringe-inducing, dialogue and green screens, poorly lit, poorly rendered post-conversion, and sitting through "The Nutcracker in 3D" becomes a chore you’d only wish on your worst (maybe second worst) enemy, but not their children (they’re innocent, after all).
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=21668&reviewer=402
originally posted: 11/25/10 05:00:00