Universal // 2010 // 108 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Dawn Hunt // November 13th, 2011
I have seen almost every single incarnation of the story of the Nutcracker that's been released on film. Yes, even Care Bears Nutcracker Suite. I am a self-proclaimed fan, to say the least, and was disappointed when the 3-D version of this film bypassed my small town last Christmas, so you can only imagine how excited I was to get this assignment.
It is with a heavy heart that I now detail my disappointment with The Nutcracker: The Untold Story. My issue is the film does not know what type of a film it wants to be. Part musical, part action/adventure, part fantasy and part drama; it never shifts seamlessly between these genres, instead there are obvious disconnects. And there are honestly scary moments as well -- it earns its PG rating for sure. There's a genuinely terrifying moment with a great white shark, for example.
Those looking for a retelling of the fairytale as seen during a typical ballet performance will be disappointed. This is at its heart the story of a girl who escapes into fantasy when her parents have no time for her. It echoes The Wizard of Oz thematically but unlike that film The Nutcracker: The Untold Story does not feature the heroine solving her own problem. And that choice was one of the biggest disappointments for me. I'm fine with making the Nutcracker's world a dream if that dream serves a purpose. It doesn't do that here, at least not the purpose it's set up to confront.
The bright spots are the performances of Elle Fanning and Frances de la Tour (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows). In Fanning's performance there are hints of the charm she so effortlessly displays in Super 8 and she delivers exactly what the script asks her to. And I especially enjoyed de la Tour's turn as the Rat Queen. She was wonderfully subtle paired against John Turturro's (Transformers: Dark of the Moon) Rat King.
The disc is beautiful, the 1080p High-Def is great, and there are only a couple of spots where you can see the green screen seam (and only if you're looking for it). The lighting scheme changes with each part of each world we inhabit. There is never anything but a wonderful depth of black, and an especially lovely blue tint as well. The shadows don't fall into complete obfuscation, and the Christmas tree sequences are some of the most beautifully opulent elements of the whole film. The colors, when needed, are wonderfully rich and then equally lovely in pale tones.
The DTS-HD sound is outstanding. I'm not rushing out to buy the soundtrack (even if it does have Tim Rice music on it) but I don't need to. The audio is tremendously effective the way it is. Of note is the consistency of the dialogue levels. The bass is never blown out and the ranges are never going to peak your system, however they works with the dynamic singers and sound effects of the soundtrack.
The only special feature is the making of featurette, although at a run time of almost an hour it's nearly its own feature. I never heard why this wasn't released in a 3-D disc, and I wanted to know.
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Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 108 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Rated PG
* Official Site