Monday, December 5, 2011

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.

Got it?

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.

Lessons Learned
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

Stray Observation
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.

Court Ruling
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.


  1. I need to watch some REALLY bad movies! My blog so far is too positive, The Kiss is really the only review where I've been overtly hostile. What can you recommend?

  2. Ah, pressure! I could write an encyclopedia, but I'll start slow with some abominable holiday horror: don't open til Christmas (adorably sleazy), deadly little Christmas (painfully inept), silent night deadly night 2 (seriously, skip the first since it's recapped in full here), feeders 2: slay bells (near unwatchable) and if you really want to hate me, Santa claws.

    I look forward to reading your pain.

  3. Of course, I've seen Silent Night Deadly Night Part 2, though I don't own a copy of it, otherwise it'd be my christmas review instead of (the awesome) Trancers (Jack Deth fights zombie Santa!)

    I look forward to the pain, and to hating you, haha!

  4. Just making sure! Also, Jack Frost and its sequel (involving killer snowballs in the Carribean) is actually kinda fun in a goofy late 90s way.

  5. I kind of hate you, because your review has me really wanting to see this now. I tell myself, "Self, you've seen 'KISS meets the Phantom of the Park', you can handle anything."

  6. MOOOOOhahahahahha!

    You know, it's not quite on the Santa Claws level of "It's so bad that I don't want anyone to subject their eyes to this." It's genuinely bizarre,which makes it *almost* watchable because you just keep wondering how much weirder it could get. For me, unless a movie is actively trying to be bad (like something from later era Troma or Full Moon) I can find enjoyment in it. Nutcracker 3D is made by a genuine filmmaker and hey, it LOOKS's just that 'fine' means you have Auschwitz instead of Sugar Plum Fairyland.

    And shame on me, I've yet to see Phantom of the Park. If you're a podcast fan, one of my favorites, The Gentleman's Guide to Midnite Cinema did a review of it a few months back. I highly recommend tracking it down on iTunes.

  7. Thanks, I'll look that up! I'm always looking for some cool podcasts, anyway. I spend a chunk of my workdays doing repetitive detail sanding work, and audiobooks and podcasts keep me entertained. I find podcasts frustrating, though, because it's hard to find good ones that aren't just two college guys talking into a mic and thinking they're way funnier than they are.

    Since I keep throwing links at you, here's my own review of "KISS meets the Phantom":

    It's gloriously awesomely bad, but how much you enjoy it will depend heavily on whether you grew up during the 70's or not.

  8. Emy, I heard of this movie this year and was so baffled about what I read of it, I decided to steer clear since you know how much I love the Nutcracker an it's whimsical music to the point that I almost broke my old tape, yes tape caset, of it. :) I do like watching the yearly battle of the Nutcrackers, which I think is on IFC or something, and those directors have some pretty wild imaginations with their interpretations, but from the full review you've given this version, it must make Tchaikovsky shudder in his grave, and he's used to the cold in Russia! ~Jessie

  9. Trever: Podcast listening is a lot of trial and error, but I can't remember days without them now that I've found the ones I love. My shows (GleeKast and when we're active, Girls On Film) are part of, which is a syndicate of podcasts. I'd recommend any of the ones on that site but would be happy to give you more specifics if you're interested.

    I just missed the KISS party, but your review of Phantom certainly makes me want to check it out!

    JESS! You would HATE this! And yes, poor Tchaikovsky is colder than Siberia right now thinking about Albert Einstein singing inane lyrics over his music!

  10. It's impossible to pass on any movie that features KISS fighting robotic Wolfman, Frankenstein's Monster, robot monkeys and samurai with lightsabers. Keep a stiff drink handy. You likely won't enjoy it as much, though, since you won't be having the nostalgia flashback attack born from watching stuff like this on TV as a 70's child.

    As for podcasts, hit me! I am largely new to both the blogging and podcasting world, and really have no experience with the networks set up therein (I have blogged for about 7 years, but that was mainly a "Life overseas" chronicle of our time living in France, for friends and relatives). I'll check out Palavr. Mainly I'm interested in horror-focused stuff, and especially classic horror (Classic horror to me is 30's through the mid 70's)

  11. My fella is a big KISS fan, so I'll just watch with his running overly enthusiastic commentary. Most of my KISS knowledge came from the notorious Gene SImmons interview with Terri Gross on NPR. One of the most awkward, uncomfortable, and hilarious interviews I've ever heard.

    Podcasts! Let me run through a few:
    Gentlemen's Guide to Midnite Cinema: two smart dudes going in depth with a variety of cinema genres. Lots of 70s stuff, some newer.
    Outside the Cinema: random cult & horror films, lots of giallo and a whole mix of stuff
    Night of the Living Podcast: a very hilarious crew of folks discuss straight-to-DVD horror and one feature. They do themed months so the coverage ranges from old to new.
    Mail Order Zombie: Straight to video zombie films. THe host is on break but is now doing another podcast ON classic horror, but the name of the show slips my mind at the moment. I'll try to remember!
    Bloody Good Horror: A few smart guys discussing generally new releases
    Horror Etc: THey tackle broader topics and relavant films. Big variety there.
    VCinema: Great look at Asian genre film.
    ShowSHow: More general, but they do an episode every day in October quickly covering different (and usually awful) horror films.
    Movie Matchup: A few guys pair up two films, usually an old and new one. Not always horror, but a great mix.
    Fat Guys At the Movies: New releases, covered by the very entertaining Kevin Carr and a changing guest.
    Criterion Cast: all Criterion films
    Chin STroker Vs. Punter: Two Brits take one film and go deep. Not always genre, but always interesting.
    cineAWESOME: Two dudes tackling genre film. New but good.

    And of course, there's Girls On Film Radio, where myself and a few other dames discuss films generally considered more male.

  12. This is some kind of multimedia joke, right? You re-appropriated stills, Photoshopped images, and made dummy links. Right? Right? This isn't real. Funny Emily.

  13. Sweetheart, even I wouldn't tell a 90 million dollar joke like this.

  14. Merci beaucoup, madame! Thanks very much for the podcast suggestions! You have likely saved me a huge amount of annoyance, and I appreciate it greatly. I'm particularly intrigued by the British one, since I spent 7 years watching BBC in Europe and have come to have a distinct appreciation for the Brit take on things-genre. Which reminds me that I need to review "Dead Set" on KFP one of these days...

  15. My pleasure! That also reminds me that I forgot 35MM Heroes and Cinerama, also fine film podcasts by Brits.

    I heartily enjoyed Dead Set. A rare feat in successfully being scary and funny.

  16. Over there it ran in several parts, around 30-40 minutes each, broken up over several nights leading up to Halloween. It made for a very cool week tuning in to the beeb to catch the next chapter.

    Oh, that reminds me, speaking of BBC horror, if you haven't seen it, Netflix streaming has just picked up BBC's miniseries "Apparitions", which is *excellent*. If you like creepy possession stories. Martin Shaw plays a modern day "deliverance minister", aka, a trained exorcist priest. It does a lot of thoughtful dancing around on the border of religion in modern society, possession, and just plain crazy, and we thought it was terrific. Very creepy in an old-fashioned "Haunting of Hell House" way.

  17. I'll add it to the queue! Thanks for the tip!

  18. Haha, this looks pretty awful! Love the pic of the Substitute flicks.

  19. It's awful in one of the most amazing ways I've ever seen...ever.