The Nutcracker in 3-D Andrei Konchalovsky
Published Nov 24, 2010Whenever a film by a professional filmmaker is so astoundingly bad that I'm left literally stunned, I tend to step back and ask myself if it was intentional, like if the sheer badness has some sub-textual, subversive purpose. I've watched Supernova at least seven times under the assumption that the mystical, glowing, alien vagina meant something different before the film was edited beyond comprehension.
This live-action, Dadaist, sarcastically Republican version of The Nutcracker was written and directed by Andrei Konchalovsky, who wrote Tarkovskiy's Andrey Rublyov and directed a series of arty Russian films before snidely doing director-for-hire gigs in the late '80s (Tango & Cash, Homer & Eddie). Surely he understands the medium well enough to know that everything about this disturbing and disastrously animated holiday family film was ill conceived from the get go, right? I mean, they decapitate the little drummer boy and sing about communism and subjective reality.
With very little actual Nutcracker score and 3-D that's often grey and distorted, this bizarre adaptation opens in '20s Vienna with young Mary (Elle Fanning) receiving the titular toy from her Uncle Albert (Nathan Lane), whose rants about relativity and Freudian dream analysis inject some awkward historical and thematic context.
The nutcracker (voiced by Shirley Henderson) comes to life at night, shrinking Mary and transporting her to a magical dream world that consists primarily of her Christmas tree and a dollhouse with a creepy, obese clown and a Planet of the Apes reject. This pleasant, capitalist Xanadu is interrupted when the evil, communist Rat King (John Turturro) kidnaps the toys, hoping to destroy childhood whimsy through grey skies and uniform simplicity.
Beyond the peculiarity of dosing a children's holiday film with dodgy political allegory, there is something overwhelmingly off-centre about The Nutcracker, in a Bear's Kiss sort of way. Part of it is the dreadful acting and occasionally mismatched ADR, while another is the surprisingly disturbing visual effects (the projecting rat snout, in particular, is quite horrific).
Of course, if lethargic musical numbers and clumsy action are your things, this medicinal Christmas parable may very well be your Holy Grail. Aside from genuine curiosity about how such an eristic final product could exist, there is nothing to recommend. (Alliance)