The Movie Pool gets in the holiday spirit with the Nutcracker: The Motion Picture DVD!
Tchaikovsky's classic ballet comes to life, thanks to the Pacific Northwest Ballet Company.
Directed by: Carroll Ballard
Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker ballet is an absolute Christmas classic, but I do not remember it being this creepy. Director Caroll Ballard (The Black Stallion) delivers a faithful cinematic presentation of a staged performance of the ballet, which can be a good and bad thing. Seeing the ballet performed onstage is nice, but by keeping faithful to the original story, it highlights the fact that Drosselmeier, the toymaker/magician/godfather who inspires the tale, acts like a child predator the entre film. A number of times in the film, he openly leers at the young Clara, so much so that she gets uncomfortable and moves away from him, and even other characters look at him as if to say "What the Hell?"
Drosselmeier's sex pervert disposition is so distracting that I could not even truly enjoy the film. Every time he appears on screen, wearing an eyepatch and looking like an even stranger version of Crispin Glover's George McFly from Back to the Future, I took note and wondered why this sort of subtext was even put in this movie. I also wondered what was the deal with the dancing mice, but that's a minor gripe.
The ballet itself, performed by the Pacific Northwest Ballet Company, is very well done, with high production values in the sets, costumes, and lighting. I dare say it is one of the best staged performances of Nutcracker ever committed to film. Director Ballard has an excellent feel for capturing the entire performance, moving expertly between close-ups and wide shots so the viewer can best appreciate all that is going on. A film based on a staged performance should not work this well, but Ballard pulls it all together somehow.
The ballet itself can be a bit long, but true fans will appreciate the effort to make this a good film. For everyone else, it ranks as an odd holiday curiosity, with a slice of creepy child molestor behavior thrown in. Don't believe me? I'll let the picture speak for itself. This is how Drosselmeier at Clara the whole time:
VIDEO AND AUDIO
The video image is not as strong as a 1986 film should. The image is dull and seems a bit washed out, considering the colorful staging. It looks like a second generation print; it is amazing this film does not have a better video source to pull from. The print used is fairly clean of defects, but it is a bland presentation. The audio is a fairly solid Dolby Digital 2.0, which does not really do the music justice. It really needed a better surrounding mix.
A theatrical trailer is included.
THE BOTTOM LINE: BUY IT OR REDBOX IT?
Overall Grade: B-
Nutcracker: The Motion Picture doesn't quite click for me, but die-hard fans of the holiday ballet will enjoy it. It could do well playing on a TV during a Christmas party, as long as no one watches and notices the weirdo playing Drosselmeier. The ballet is actually very good, and some nice camera work helps. The video and audio could be stronger (a nice sound mix would make this a must-buy for Christmas movie fans), and you get no other extras outside of a trailer. It is easily the strongest of the Nutcracker films I've seen, and warrants a rent, or even a buy for fans of the ballet. I would look to purchase it on sale, as the $19.98 retail price is a bit much for what you get here.
This DVD is offered as part of MGM's "Limited Edition Collection," which is available from select online retailers and manufactured only when the DVD is ordered. The DVD-R features a simple menu with no menu for chapters or scenes. Manufacture-On-Demand (MOD) DVDs are made to play in DVD playback units only and may not play in DVD recorders or PC drives. This DVD did not play in our laptop DVD drive but did play in our Toshiba DVD recorder.
Release Date: December 23, 2011
Running Time: 85 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0
Special Features: Trailer
Nutcracker: The Motion Picture is now available on MOD DVD from MGM/Fox Home Entertainment