Nutcracker in 3D
Director: Andrey Konchalovskiy
Starring: Elle Fanning, John Turturro, Nathan Lane, Richard E. Grant
Review: 0 stars (of five)
Nutcracker in 3D is simply an offense. It is a grim and relentless assault on childhood dressed up in perhaps the most beloved and innocuous holiday entertainment for the under-10 set. Never mind this review—I’ve actually been emailing every parent of young children I know to warn them not to expose their kids to this disturbed, disturbing piece of crap.
You remember The Nutcracker, a sweet story about a girl’s dream, in which toys come to life, little mice nibble gingerbread cookies under the Christmas tree, and the girl marries a handsome prince. It’s told through ballet and the elegant music of Tchiakovsky, whose main “Nutcracker Suite” is one of the most recognized pieces of music in the Western world. You know what the problem was with The Nutcracker, according to the child-hating jerks who made this version? Not enough Nazis.
Here, the mouse king, scourge of gingerbread men, has been replaced by a Rat King (unforgivably and inexplicably played by John Turturro) who is made up like Andy Warhol, but with a rat face, and leads a grim army of rat-faced German-styled soldiers in a blighted industrial kingdom bedecked with Nazi-esque flags. That’s right, the little mouse who nibbled crumbs under the Christmas tree is now a rat-faced Adolf Hitler, inexplicably borrowing Andy Warhol’s hair and wardrobe, whose mission is to fill the skies with black smoke made by burning mountains of toys stolen from subjugated children so grimy and dispirited that they make the urchins of Dickens’ London look like Hanna Montana.
(It is necessary to note that this film has absolutely no “so bad it’s good” qualities. I say to you, “John Turturro as Hitler as a rat-faced Andy Warhol,” and you’re thinking, “You know, that could be … perversely magnificent, in a ‘Springtime for Hitler’ way.” Sorry, not in this festering dungheap, it’s not.)
Do you need more? Our little-girl heroine lives with a wretched little brother who briefly joins the ratzis. They are the children of a tyrannical, verbally abusive father and a flighty, self-involved mother. The mother also appears as the Sugar-Plum Fairy and, like the mother herself, does nothing to help the girl in what is now a life-and-death battle against Nazis* with motorcycles and machine guns. Oh, the kids have a kindly uncle, too, who is (for no reason provided) Albert Einstein. He even seems to be aware of the supernatural Rat Kingdom stuff, but he also inexplicably refuses to aid the little girl. In the end, when the girl saves the kingdom and finds childish love with the prince who’d been transformed into a nutcracker, the stupid fairy shows up and sends her, in desperate tears, back to her hateful family. Your parents are jerks! Your loved ones won’t defend you! You get no happy endings in this life! Happy holidays, children—who wants a big, crumbly lump of coal?
More: There’s one very brief and uninspired balletic dance. The glorious music of Tchaikovsky has been reduced to typical background score, easily ignored, while the producers trumpet that the film offers “Eight exciting new songs!” Thank god someone finally rewrote that hack Tchaikovsky, huh? Maybe now I can finally get my 3D speed-metal remake of Swan Lake greenlit. (Hook: They’re not swans, they’re heroin-junkie strippers!)
If the film has a redeeming point (really, it doesn’t), it’s that Elle Fanning is charming enough in her role as the girl caught up in this world of horror and abuse. (That Nathan Lane agreed to prance through a few scenes as a singing Albert Einstein is nearly as big a crime as Turturro’s.) Fanning alone deserves to get another job after this wretched monstrosity has been inflicted upon humanity. Certainly Konchalovskiy and writer Chris Solimine shouldn’t be allowed again near any tools intended for the creation of art. The film has many, many problems of narrative, style, pacing and more, but all of these pale before the damage done by inflicting such Holocaust-flavored hackery on this source material, so I can’t be bothered to wonder why Nathan Lane sometimes talks to the camera, or how they manage to make 110 minutes feel like four hours’ hard labor.
I saw this film at a daytime press screening, and there were less than a dozen children present. Two parents had the good sense to take their kids out halfway through, and another, on leaving, was trying to talk her shell-shocked daughter back to sanity. “I told you we could’ve left,” she said. “I can’t believe you didn’t want to leave.” Memo to parents: It’s your job to keep your kids out of a film this soul-crushing.
*To my untrained eye, the soldiers’ uniforms seemed to be a mishmash of WWI (non-Nazi) and WWII (totally Nazi) looks. But the mad dictator, the flag, the general thrust of it: Nazis.