The Secret of the Nutcracker

| September 22, 2009

I would have expected The Secret of the Nutcracker to be a holiday family movie, and it seems to try to have that feel, but there were so many scary parts, that I just can’t see very young kids watching it. However, it is a beautifully filmed movie, as well as having a little bit of a Harry Potter feel to it, and that as well is going to appeal more to slightly older viewers.
The film is set during WWII with a young girl, Clara (Janelle Jorde), anxiously awaiting word from her father who is in a P.O.W. camp. She goes into a general store and is helped by a boy of about her age behind the counter. He gives her a postcard that her dad has sent, and she runs out very happy and waiting to share the news with her brothers and mom. She’s stopped on the way by a man dressed in black and white snow-looking fur, and while the story doesn’t say as much, we know this man, Drosselmeyer (Brian Cox), is really an owl that we’d seen watching Clara earlier. Along with Drosselmeyer are his followers who are all dressed in black and seem to be emulating crows.
Clara shows her postcard to Drosselmeyer, and as she does so, instead of seeing his written words, she sees a video of his face. This strange man, Drosselmeyer, seems to be filled with all sorts of magic. Quite enchanted with him, she invites him to Christmas Eve dinner that night and runs home to tell her mom of the guest she’d just invited. Drosselmeyer, who has long fingernails like the claws of a large bird, crafts a nutcracker for her as a gift, and we’re assured a lot of magic goes into it as well.
Tchaikovsky’s music, used in the original Nutcracker is interspersed through this movie as well, as it’s used for the more dramatic moments. The nutcracker brings a lot of drama into Clara’s life, and still trying to reach her father, she gets met up by scary beasts with the music pumping in the background. She also enters fantasies where the more lighter Nutcracker music is playing, along with the ballet being performed at points.
The music and ballet is stunning and gorgeous, almost as much as the winter scenes of Alberta, Canada. All of it together, the music, the dance, the winter scenes is absolutely breathtaking and is hard to take your eyes off it. It certainly leads you to thoughts of visiting, and is helped by the travelogue in the Special Features part of the DVD of things you can do in the Alberta Summer and Winter. Also included is Behind the Scenes with the actors, and Behind the Scenes with the trained owl from the film, a rescued bird.
The Secret of the Nutcracker certainly deserves an audience both for its original story incorporating the original Nutcracker and the story of Clara and her father, as well as the music, dance, and scenic wonders. The use of the scary creatures and tone throughout, though, might limit that somewhat.

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