The Nutcracker: The Untold Story (2010) May It Never Be Told Again
When I think about The Nutcracker, my mind goes back to my primary school years where I recall several ballet performances designed to be cultural for young minds. The ballet, originally performed in 1892, features several memorable tunes from Tchaikovsky and tells the tale of a young girl caught up in a war between Gingerbread men and Rats on Christmas Eve. Though the ballet bored me to tears, that's what I think of anytime I hear "The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies". Now, I might only think about how the director of Tango & Cash ingrained in my mind the memory of John Turturro with giant pointy teeth, a singing Albert Einstein, and, that most Christmassy of topics, The Holocaust. When Emily of The Deadly Doll's House picked this for my part in the December Christmas Swap, she told me that The Nutcracker: The Untold Story (known as the Nutcracker 3-D when it was in theaters) was a special kind of bad. Never in a jillion Festivuses would I have thought that The Nutcracker could be taken from something so primally yawn inducing to something that literally kept my enraptured with its awfulness. For her part, Emily got the easy end of the deal watching the Holiday flavored guymance Love, Actually (and yes, actually that was my pick.), but I got something special, an untold story, and I'm here to tell you all about it.
Elle Fanning, younger sister of Dakota and current star of the Matt Damon Zoo purchasing picture, stars as Mary (because obviously she doesn't look like a Clara) a young girl in 1920s Vienna. On Christmas Eve, her Godfather Uncle Albert (Nathan Lane as a thinly veiled Einstein) comes to babysit when Mom and Dad (Richard E. Grant? What's next? Eggnog & I?) go out for the evening. He brings presents of a dollhouse featuring some strange dolls and a Nutcracker for Mary. After some kerfuffle with her brother breaking the doll, Albert sings a song about imagination and reality set to one of Pyotr Ilyich's tunes. At night, the Nutcracker comes to life, and it's revealed that he's a boy trapped in a Nutcracker's body (who prefers to be called NC) who is a Prince of an alternate dimension where he's battling The Rat King (John Turturro with buck teeth and an upturned nose). Mary must help the Prince regain his kingdom before The Rat king can round up all the toys and burn them in ovens to block out the sun.
So yeah, it's pretty much like the 1892 version, but spiced up for a new generation. Wait. Did I say spiced up? I meant made into a total ball of reindeer droppings. I really don't know where to start or end with this thing so let me start off with some numbers. The Nutcracker: The Untold Story cost 90 million dollars to make. In it's domestic run it made 195 thousand dollars and then only 16 million overseas. I'm not sure who decided that a spectacle movie like this should be in the hands of Andrey Konchalovski, aforementioned director of Tango & Cash, but they were wrong...so, so wrong. Konchalovski penned the screenplay so I guess he thought kids were clamoring for a Shindler's List, but for Christmas, and with the E=MC squared guy. They also want the Nutcracker, excuse me, NC, to have zany pals like a Jamaican guy that can't stop drumming, an Opera clown, and a monkey in a suit. Oh, how the kids love Opera clowns and rejects from an open casting call for Hellboy. I hope they also love when things are filmed to jump out at the audience, but now, in its 2-D form no longer work because The Untold Story is all about telling the story with moments like those.
I suppose when you're making a 90 million dollar 3-D movie about The Nutcracker, you can get some people to do some crazy things. I can see Elle Fanning being in this. She was 10. It was a good job to get. Fine. She's probably the most tolerable character, but I can't for the life of me figure out why her 1920's girl dresses like a 1980's Madonna. For actors like Turturro, Grant, and Lane, I'm sure the paychecks were signed in all the right places. Grant has precious little to do except be an inconsiderate father with a William Holden mustache, and Russian actress Yuiya Vysotskaya makes zero impression in either her role as the Mother or the Snow Fairy. Lane is actually pretty entertaining to watch even though his character is entirely out of place. Turturro, however, is god awful. Looking like a plastic surgery accident crossed with Draco Malfoy, Turturro takes it so far over the top the performance actually plummets to its death before the credits roll. The only thing more disturbing then Turturro is British actress Frances de la Tour as the thoroughly disgusting and ambisexual Rat Queen.
To say that The Nutcracker: The Untold Story is one of the strangest and worst children's movies I've ever seen would be an understatement. It is clearly one of the worst films I have ever seen. From stem to stern, there is nothing defensible about this flick. Well, except that it's so incredibly terrible that it must be seen to be believed. I'm not talking so bad it's good bad. I'm talking so bad you will lose a little faith in the art of motion pictures. So bad you'll want to put coal in the stockings of everyone involved in the film. You'll want to ensure they never get to eat anything but fruit cake for the rest of their lives to pay for their trespasses. Then, after maybe a day or two, you'll come out of it, and like Emily did to me, you'll want someone else to see it. You'll want to put someone else through The Untold Story. So if you know someone who's been really naughty this year, then tell them all about this amazing version of The Nutcracker they just have to see!