Cert PG Stars 4
This live-action coming-of-age fantasy adventure is exciting, lavish, sentimental and sweet in Disney’s best tradition and should beguile its target audience of young girls.
It’s inspired by the book on which Tchaikovsky based his famous ballet score, and though there’s judicious use of his glorious music, this owes far more to The Wizard of Oz, The Chronicles of Narnia, and David Bowie’s Labyrinth.
Best known from the Twilight franchise, young Mackenzie Foy is an endearing science-loving heroine called Clara. On Christmas Eve at a grand ball she receives an intricate mechanical egg, bequeathed from her late mother.
Searching for a key to unlock her gift, Clara enters a magical world and discovers she’s a princess who must save three realms from the fourth dark one, the Land of Amusements.
Accompanied by Jayden Fowora-Knight’s dashing Nutcracker, Clara encounters an army of life-size tin soldiers, a fearsome Mouse King, and Helen Mirren in whip-cracking form as a wicked witch called Mother Ginger. Smug posh comic, Jack Whitehall, has a thankfully very minor role as a fawning sentry.
Keira Knightley is a delicious delight who rules the film as the breathy-voiced Sugar Plum Fairy, having the time of her life in a performance and supercharges proceedings whenever she appears.
Along with everyone else she wears fabulous costumes by Brit Oscar winning designer, Jenny Beavan, which are perfectly suited to the eye-popping and brightly coloured chocolate box set-design.
Two directors are credited and occasionally there are small indicators dance scenes have been retooled to suit a more conventional storytelling style and a crowd-pleasing framework.
Disney have been surprisingly low key about this film which is a shame as it deserves a big sell, but presumably they’ve occupied by the upcoming box office juggernaut, Mary Poppins Returns, as it rumbles up the track for Christmas.
In the meantime this is a lovely early treat which will enchant your little princess.