BFS Video // 2009 // 87 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // January 6th, 2010
An enchanting new spin on a classic tale.
Apparently, by "enchanting" the blurb writer means "terrifying."
It's World War II and our story revolves around 12-year-old Clara (Janelle Jorde), who is spending Christmas Eve anxiety-ridden over the status of her father, a POW, whose condition is unknown. And just when she's about to go completely sideways, who should show up but the magical Drosselmeyer (Brian Cox, The Bourne Supremacy) who grants wishes or something.
Sounds great and all and there are ballerinas, which is cool, but no sooner does Drosselmeyer show up when some nightmarish Nazi wolf-monsters appear and HOLY @#$%!!!!
Well this is...interesting. Secret of the Nutcracker is obviously aimed at kids, or at least families. Younger kids, even, what with the magical ballet sequences and such. But for some reason the filmmakers decided to toss in some really horrifying imagery. For crying out loud, you've got a little girl running through a dark forest, being chased by these hooded, snarling Nazi creatures with big-ass teeth, drool seeping out in torrents. That's intense.
The good news is, if your kids aren't curled up into the fetal position and neck-deep in their happy place there might be some fun to be had here. There's solid helping of whimsy on display, especially when Drosselmeyer lands on the scene and the magic really gets cranking. The music, dancing, costumes, and set design effectively transmit the spirit of the season and all that. Young ballet fans should be appreciative.
Speaking of Drosselmeyer, Brian Cox does a nice job in a role he probably could have phoned in. He dons the cloak and does the wise old sage thing. He can be playful at times, but what's memorable about this character is the edge Cox brings to the role. There's definitely a macabre Brothers Grimm vibe going through it.
The scary images -- as well as the bratty little brothers who swear at each other -- don't do a lot to sell Secret of the Nutcracker as a legit kid-friendly flick. But for the hearty souls out there, the imagery, music, and acting should appeal.
The Blu-ray is simple, but solid. Audio/visual specifications are up to the task, starting with an attractive, crisp 1.78:1 widescreen transfer and a nice 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix that blasts out the Tchaikovsky with excitement. A pair of behind-the-scenes interviews are it for extras.
Freaky, sure, but there is ballet and music you'll recognize so it may be worth emotional trauma.
Not Guilty, but mainly because I'm still hopped up on Christmas jubilee.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: BFS Video
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* DTS 2.0 Stereo (French)
* DTS 2.0 Stereo (Spanish)
Running Time: 87 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated