The Nutcracker in 3D
Roll over Tchaikovsky, ‘Nutcracker’ is in 3-D
It’s official: 1964’s “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians’’ and the Dudley Moore “Santa Claus’’ (1985) now have competition for the Worst Christmas Movie of All Time. The esteemed Russian director Andrei Konchalovsky has taken “The Nutcracker’’ and turned it into a disastrously misconceived musical fantasy adventure. With Nazi rats. It’s now called “The Nutcracker in 3D,’’ and, baby, the 3-D ain’t the worst of it.
First of all, they’ve gotten rid of the dancing. Modern kids are too busy texting to sit still for ballet, right? The music is next: Tchaikovsky’s much-loved melodies are here, sort of, as background music to the frenetic fantasy action, popping into the foreground only when the characters open their mouths to sing. Yes, Virginia, “The Nutcracker’’ is now a musical, with cringingly banal lyrics by Tim Rice (“Evita’’) and the occasional semi-demi-disco instrumentation.
A warning to parents who take their children to this expecting little Clara, the giant Christmas tree, Herr Drosselmeyer, and all those dancing Jujubes. Clara is now Mary (Elle Fanning) and Drosselmeyer is now Uncle Albert, a Borscht-belt Einstein played by Nathan Lane with a recycled Max Bialystock accent. The Nutcracker, now called N.C., is an enchanted wooden puppet who’s really a boy prince (Charlie Rowe) exiled from his kingdom by the evil Rat King (John Turturro with fright wig and latex snout) and his minions, all of whom are dressed for the Third Reich.
The filmmakers have cribbed as much from “The Wizard of Oz’’ as is legally non-actionable: The Snow Queen (Yulia Visotskaya, a.k.a. Mrs. Konchalovsky) is Glinda by any other name, and the Rat King’s soldiers wear giant farting rocket-packs that turn them into so many winged monkeys. Mary’s companions include a clown (Hugh Sachs), a gentleman chimp (Peter Elliott), and a young Jamaican street musician (Africa Nile). I swear I am not making any of this up.
Insult to injury: Another botched post-production 3-D conversion makes the movie resemble a mutilated pop-up book. Look, “The Nutcracker’’ isn’t sacred. It was heavy fruitcake when it premiered in 1892 and it’s a warhorse today, often lovely, often to be endured. But this is first-degree cultural homicide.