The Nutcracker comes to life on film once again.

Based on E.T.A. Hoffman’s The Nutcracker and the Mouse KingThe Nutcracker and the Four Realms follows young Clara (Mackenzie Foy) as she prepares for Christmas Eve celebrations with her family. Her mother has recently passed away and her father (Matthew Macfadyen) has a few last minute gifts for Clara and her siblings. Clara is surprised to receive a small ornate egg, sealed by a lock she cannot pick.

Later that evening, the family head to a Christmas Eve party at the home of the kids’ godfather (Morgan Freeman). It turns out he is an avid inventor (as was Clara’s mother), and tries to help Clara uncover where she might find the key for her egg. As part of the elaborate Christmas celebrations, presents have been hidden around the house, and the children have to follow different coloured strings to get to theirs. Clara follows hers and finds that she is no longer in London; rather, she has been transported to the mythical land of the Four Realms. Will she find her key here?

The first person Clara encounters is Phillip (Jayden Fowora-Knight), a Nutcracker soldier. When he calls her ‘Princess Clara’, the young girl discovers she is embroiled deeper in this fantasy world than she ever could have imagined. She meets the guardians of three of the Realms, and becomes close with Sugar Plum (Keira Knightley), who shows her around the kingdom, and tells Clara about the current battle between the Realms following the death of her mother (the Queen). Clara must do all she can to restore what is right to the world before it’s too late.

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms may slip under a few people’s radars, as it’s seemingly one of the few films on Disney’s upcoming release slate that isn’t directly linked to a franchise. That being said, the Nutcracker is a character everyone is familiar with, and this new take is as beautiful and charming as Christmas movies get.

The film’s costume and set design stand out in particular, as citizens reveal allegiance to their respective Realms in the way they dress. As with the recent live-action Beauty and the Beast, this is a truly gorgeous production. It’s also managed to certify leading lady Mackenzie Foy as an up-and-comer to challenge the likes of Talulah Riley.

Though it has no real franchise appeal, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms is a short, kid-friendly Christmas flick that’s a safe bet for the grandparents to take any Narnia-loving youngsters to this holidays. However, those with a fear of clowns or mice need not apply.

star-3In cinemas: November 22, 2018
Starring: Mackenzie Foy, Helen Mirren, Kiera Knightley
Directed by: Lasse Hallstrom, Joe Johnston

Read our interview with the cast