Clara (Mackenzie Foy; The Conjuring) is a young woman who, like her deceased mother, is intelligent and mechanically inclined. On Christmas Eve her father gives her a present left to her by her late mother, which is an egg that requires a key to open it. Only her mother didn't give her the key. Recognizing the mark of her godfather, Drosselmeyer (Morgan Freeman; Million Dollar Baby), on the egg, she asks for his help. Upon following his clues she finds the key to open the egg along with something else she never expected…a whole other world.
Upon entering this world she meets the Nutcracker Soldier, Phillip (newcomer Jayden Fowora-Knight) who tells her she is in the four realms and brings her to the warrants who oversee the realms. It is here she discovers she is a princess and her mother was the Queen of the four realms. She also is told the tale of Mother Ginger (Helen Mirren; The Queen) who is out to destroy the realms.
Mother Ginger, with the help of the mouse king, has stolen Clara's key and now Clara must venture into the land of amusements to get her key back and create an army of toy soldiers to beat Mother Ginger. However, along the way, Clara not only finds her self-worth but learns that things aren't quite exactly as they seem and ends up teaming with an unlikely ally to defeat the real enemy of the four realms.
Foy does a very good job as the smart and beautiful Clara and offers a believable performance as this iconic character. Meanwhile, while Mirren's time on screen is somewhat limited, she is, as always, spot on and her performance is memorable. Unfortunately the same can't be said for Kiera Knightly (The Imitation Game) who plays the Sugar Plum Fairy. She is mostly annoying and only becomes more interesting in the latter half of the film. The rest of the cast is mostly unremarkable and Foy and Mirren far outshine them.
The gems of this feature are the set designs and costumes. Elaborate scenery sets the tone of the movie and visually draws the audience in keeping their attention throughout. The costumes are equally as stunning and every detail is intricate and well thought out. The film is a feast for the eyes and a smorgasbord of sites and colors and textures that will delight children and adults alike. The CGI is also well done and the Mouse King is especially intricate (yet horrifying). It's a shame the story doesn't equal this level of excellence.
I was also a little disappointed by the ballet sequence. Getting Misty Copeland to dance in the movie was a wonderful idea but I didn't feel the choreography fully showcased her talent and genius. For a story based on a world-famous ballet I expected more and that moment was a bit of a letdown. The dance sequence in the end credits was far superior.
Disney always delivers magical and mystical worlds that younger audiences delight in and while the concept of this movie is intriguing, it lacks that intangible "something" that other successful Disney features have.
I have no doubts the film will be a hit and families will fill the seats of theaters around the country this holiday season but for me, it was simply not as good as it could have been.