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The worst Xmas movie ever?

Posted by Ty Burr  December 4, 2010 12:07 PM

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The Nutcracker in 3D
Directed by: Andrei Konchalovsky
Written by: Andrei Konchalovsky and Chris Solimine
Starring: Elle Fanning, Nathan Lane, John Turturro, Richard E. Grant
At: Revere, Danvers
Running time: 110 minutes
Rated: PG (thematic elements, scary images, action, brief smoking; sugar-plum fairy abuse)
Zero stars
0*

By Ty Burr
Globe Staff

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 3D 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 Turtorro 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, aka 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 3D conversion that 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 – this is first-degree cultural homicide.

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Ty Burr is a film critic with The Boston Globe.

Mark Feeney is an arts writer for The Boston Globe.

Janice Page is movies editor for The Boston Globe.

Tom Russo is a regular correspondent for the Movies section and writes a weekly column on DVD releases.

Katie McLeod is Boston.com's features editor.

Rachel Raczka is a producer for Lifestyle and Arts & Entertainment at Boston.com.

Emily Wright is an Arts & Entertainment producer for Boston.com.

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