Astoundingly Horrible Non-Horror! The Nutcracker In 3D
It's rare that I find myself speechless about a film's complete lack of quality, because when you’ve seen both Feeders 1 AND 2, few aberrations of cinema can ever seem worse.
Which calls to mind what might happen if a ballet company knocked on Uwe Boll’s door for donations just after he drank too much Heineken while watching Julie Taymor’s Titus and finding $90 million under his sofa cushion, then went to his fridge to get another bottle, caught a glance of the wacky Albert Einstein magnet that he keeps on the door to hold up a calendar, realized it was December, and said “Hey! I can use my NINETY MILLION DOLLARS to make a live action, 3D, CGI-heavy interpretation of The Nutcracker starring John Turturro as a Nazi rat!”
Substitute Tango & Cash director (!!!) Andrey Konchalovskiy in the Boll role and huzzah! You have The Nutcracker: The Untold Story (cue Lifetime logo) or as it was dismally sold to theaters last Christmas, The Nutcracker In 3D.
Quick Plot: Mary (Elle Fanning in the kind of role that will eventually be referenced in the ‘bombs before the Oscar’ magazine writeups of the future) is an imaginative child growing up in 1920s Vienna with distant parents and a toy-breaking brother. When Uncle Albert Einstein arrives to—
What? Why are you looking at me like that? You’ve never listened to The Dance of the Sugarplum Fairies while wrapping presents and thought to yourself, “You know what this song is REALLY about? The Theory of Relativity, THAT’S it. If only the guy who wrote Jesus Christ Superstar would think up lyrics to that ubiquitous Christmas tune that better explained Einstein’s science. And if only Nathan Lane would don a powdered wig and invoke the kind of European accent slaughtered by high school seniors performing Tevye in a community theater production of Fiddler On the Roof. Only then would we really hear Tchaikovsky’s genius.”
Then boy oh boy dear readers, are you in luck! Perhaps because Lane didn’t want to soil his Broadway success by having The Producers be the worst film on his resume, he does his best impression of the Microsoft Word Einstein help avatar, occasionally addressing the camera because…well, nobody else seemed to be listening?
Getting back to the Nutcracker story you think you know, Uncle Albert Einstein gives Mary the gift of a magical dollhouse, chimpanzee doll, Jamaican drummer, and a clown I have to assume inspired the look of The Last Circus.
Oh oh oh, and dare I forget the titular nutcracker, who proceeds to come to life and take on a hybrid marionette/CGI persona voiced by a British munchkin/Moaning Myrtle and baring a more than passing resemblance to the titular foe of Pinocchio’s Revenge and/or a Canadian South Park character.
But dig this! Albie has a nickname for the nutcracker and it’s—you know it—N.C.
As Mary sleeps, she dreams of a magical CGI universe where NC comes to life while rat bat thingies watch and fly away on jet packs (go with it) to report their findings to the ruler of this alternate world, The Rat King, played by John Turturo as what might happen if Adolph Hitler impregnated a J-pop star while watching Labyrinth. He’s also afraid of the sun and thus insists on burning children’s toys all day long so that its rays are blocked by the smoke of the innocent.
But…but…didn’t the toys come to life? Aren’t a lot of them actually people? Or chimpanzees? Or Jamaican drummer boys?
Yeah, ‘bout that…
So this is an image from the Rat Kingdom:
Yup. Because in case you didn’t know, not only is The Nutcracker actually about the theory of relativity, but it’s also a metaphor for the Holocaust.
The Rat King decorates his austere palace with blown-up photos of interracial children screaming. I’m just going to let that thought sit there for a moment.
Because emulating Hitler isn’t enough for a villain, The Rat King gets a toe-tapping performance set to music not from The Nutcracker. According to the 60 minute long making-of extra on the DVD, this was actually composed by Tchaikovsky, but used for something that had nothing to do with The Nutcracker. According to Tim Rice, Tchaikovsky was the best collaborator he’s ever worked with because he’s dead, and could therefore not complain.
Somewhere in Russia, a zombie is rising, and it ain’t waxified Lenin.
Did I mention how this showstopping number ends? I’ll give you three guesses:
A) Fireworks and synchronized Esther Williams-esque pool choreography
B) A beheading of the Jamaican drummer doll, followed by a head toss
C) The reveal of the Rat King keeping a pet shark in a tank, and then the reveal of why he does: so that he can drop a giant light fixture in said tank and electrocute his pet shark to death.
If you guessed A, then I assume you hit on something in a deleted scene. B happens, just not at that moment. But as you probably knew, the answer is C. I just want to remind you that option C meant that John Turturro has a pet shark in a Nutcracker movie and seemingly the only reason for his pet shark is so that he can kill it in song.
I know you think I’m lying or at the very least, embellishing what occurred in the 108 minutes of Nutcracker In 3D, but I would never do that to you (especially during Santa season). This was apparently a 20+ year passion project for director Konchalovskiy and it kind of shows…just not in a good way. In 20 years, a man can amass a lot of ideas. He doesn’t have to then use all of them with no restraint whatsoever, save for the one decision made to NOT give the SS uniform clad rats German accents. Sure, their Brooklynese was probably more demanded by the speech limitations of prosthetic mouthguards, but still…it’s something.
Albert Einstein has a theory about everything. Ya, and iz called RELATIVITY (cue cymbal clap)
All dolls are alive. Right, that’s not a scary thought at all…
Chimpanzees get FURIOUS if you call them monkeys
The Awkward Shimmy rivaled The Charleston for popular dances of the 1920s
Anyone remember Brown-Eyed Jenkin’s creepy human face-on-CGI rat in Stuart Gordon’s first Masters of Horror episode? I think that was reused here. In a children’s film.
A judge found Nutcracker 3D guilty on the following counts:
Wasting the charms of Richard E. Grant
Assigning inane lyrics to classical music that never required lyrics, then having a Tony-award winning performer sing the lyrics with an accent so thick that the DVD requires subtitles to understand just how nonsensical the lyrics actually are
Soiling the names Mary and Max, which belong to a far better and magical little film called Mary and Max
Remember how having a substitute teacher was one of the most awesome things that could happen on a weekday? Perhaps you played jokes on the poor job hunter, but if you were REALLY lucky, your real teacher had already assigned empty busywork, sometimes in the form of a video.
Maybe schoolteachers got tired of not being appreciated and commissioned Andrey Konchalovskiy to make this film, because the only appropriate situation in which it should be shown is when Mrs. 5th Grade Teacher, jealous of the adoration received by substitutes, wants to make her class long for the days of algebra problems and Civil War battles. Kids will not like this film. As giddy as its badness made me (and remember, I’m a bad movie addict who can’t help but secretly love this), The Nutcracker In 3D is also weirdly dull, working from the same overly artificial, whimsy-lacking landscape also misused in Stephen Spielberg’s Hook. If a substitute teacher showed it to a classroom, she'd be lucky to make it to the parking lot alive.
In other words, if there are children in your life whom you hate, wrap up this DVD (complete with the sadly earnest documentary special feature) in sandpaper and stick it under the tree, after (of course) you’ve had your dog pee on it. Every little bit helps when you’re recouping a budget that could have been spent rewarding 90 Survivor champions or buying one of the Virgin Islands. Perhaps the production team should have considered that before making a KIDS film featuring this:
At this point, I hope your appetite is sufficiently whetted because in no way can I restrict this movie to this site. Coming up on December 20th, my good pal T.L. Bugg will be forced to watch and review The Nutcracker 3D for our monthly swap over at The Lightning Bug's Lair. So while I’ll be drinking up Liam Neeson’s sexy widower in Love Actually, Zach will be humming about relativity for the remainder of the month. Apparently, the poor dear made the naughty list.