Film Criticism: The Nutcracker and the Four Realms

Halloween is over, so it’s Christmas soon! And as an absolute lover of this festival, I couldn’t get in a better mood for it than with a suitable film – especially if it’s a Disney film! The two directors Lasse Hallström and Joe Johnston dare to tackle the already numerously interpreted story about the Nutcracker and the Mouse King, but miss it with an interesting twist and thus create a film that can be seen alongside other Christmas classics!


For the Stahlbaum family, the first Christmas without their recently deceased mother is just around the corner. Especially the middle daughter, Clara, suffers a lot from this loss, as the two had a common interest in the emerging technique of the Victorian age. On Christmas Eve, the three children receive special gifts left by their beloved mother. Clara receives a locked egg-shaped item in a box with the mysterious message “All you need is inside”. But one key is missing every trace – and the special lock cannot be cracked. She decides to take the egg with her to her eccentric godfather’s Christmas party, as he could help her solve the mystery surrounding the locked object.

Just as she asks her godfather about the locked object at the party, the distribution of presents begins – Clara’s questions have yet to be answered. On a large tree in the middle of the garden, colorful inscribed cords show people the way to their gifts. Clara follows her golden string and suddenly finds herself in the world of the Four Kingdoms. Once there, the girl must not only find the key, but also save the magical world from being taken over by the evil mother ginger and her henchman, the mouse king.

Clara (Mackenzie Foy)


As a big Christmas fan I have already devoured some variations of the Nutcracker story. But Disney’s Der Nussknacker und die vier Reiche (The Nutcracker and the Four Kingdoms) breathes new life into the story by taking the original short story by E.T.A. Hoffmann “Der Nussknacker und der Mausekönig” (The Nutcracker and the Mouse King) and the well-known ballet set to music by Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky as a model and continuing the story in an original way.

The Nutcracker and the Four Kingdoms is a wonderful Christmas film that creates a magical world with opulent images and backdrops. The animations are wonderful, especially the mouse king, consisting of 60,000 single mice, leaves a formative impression. The costumes are only full of attention to detail and reflect the different realms in a recognizable way. The sugar fairy embodied by Keira Knightley wears a wig that looks like her hair is made of cotton candy – perfect as the regent of the Naschwerkland. And also the costume of the regent of the flower country, the hawthorn depicted by Eugenio Derbez, is appropriately decorated with flowers and leaves from head to toe.

One point that always bothered me about Disney movies as a child was that most of the female protagonists were portrayed relatively helpless – the typical “Damsel in distress”. But Clara does not correspond to this cliché at all. For the conditions of the Victorian period, it is not what would correspond to the classical image of women of this epoch. She has no desire for social events, but – like her mother – has a great interest in science. She is particularly fond of mechanics and physics and Clara is not afraid to use these principles in her adventure. I think it’s great that Disney conveys the image of self-confident strong girls to his viewers.

Clara (Mackenzie Foy) and Phillip (Jayden Fowara Knight)

The Nutcracker and the Four Kingdoms can ride with a gang of great actors – from Morgan Freeman and Helen Mirren to Keira Knightley. But especially the latter I can’t really get to like in the movie, she seems too shrill for my taste – in English you would say “over the top”. But this small minus point shouldn’t distract from the fact that the acting performance of the whole cast was consistently good, especially that of the young Mackenzie Foy, who makes Clara blossom into a complex character through her acting. Matthew Macfadyen is also outstanding in the unfortunately very small role as Clara’s grieving father. With Macfadyen I always remember the saying “looks say more than a thousand words”, because that’s exactly what he does over and over again – he actually doesn’t need words, but manages to convey the right feeling with his facial expressions and his eyes alone.

Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite is one of my absolute favorite music pieces and probably the most used soundtrack in Christmas movies. Disney has decided to use the themes created by the Russian composer as a basis for their soundtrack, but gives them a new look, among others through the well-known pianist Lang Lang. A ballet number has also been added to the film to tell the story of the emergence of the four realms.


The Nutcracker and the Four Kingdoms is a great reinterpretation of the iconic story of the Nutcracker and I already know that this film will become a personal classic, which every year – besides Kevin – Alone at Home, Buddy – The Christmas Elf and Santa Clause – A Beautiful Present, will be shown on my TV. Of course, the movie is a bit “kitschy”, but it manages perfectly to create a childlike Christmas feeling. Families, Disney fans and Christmas lovers will enjoy the movie – if your favorite Christmas movie is Die Hard, you’d better watch something else.