Performed by ballet companies all over the world as a Christmas classic, the renowned NUTCRACKER PRINCE has now been brought to the big screen as a G-rated animated film. However, THE NUTCRACKER PRINCE may surprise those parents expecting a gentle, non-frightening, wholesome picture. Some of it is, but one 15-minute segment clearly is not.
As young Clara and Fritz celebrate Christmas Eve with the opening of presents, their enchanting Uncle Drosselmeier suddenly appears with his gifts. To Fritz, he gives a castle-in-miniature. Fritz loses interest in it, though, and Drosselmeier responds, “Toys like this are wasted on the children of today. They have no respect for the laws of mechanics.”
To the more appreciative Clara, however, he gives a princely-looking nutcracker doll. Drosselmeier, later turning out to be a practitioner of “friendly” wizardly magic, digresses to tell a story about this nutcracker prince.
Years earlier, Drosselmeier and his nephew, Hans, were clock makers for the king, who one day are ordered to rid the palace of all its mice. Angered that her subjects have been caught, the evil mouse queen casts an ugli-fying spell on the princess. Drosselmeier, however, consults the stars and finds a cure: the princess must eat the hardest nut in the world, the “crackatooth” nut. The king adds that he will make a prince out of anyone who can crack this nut for the princess.
Who can crack the nut? Only Hans can, for which the mouse queen, before she meets her demise, casts another spell that turns Hans into a nutcracker doll. The mouse queen is succeeded by her loutish son, the new mouse king, who vows to make splinters out of this nutcracker prince.
Back in the present, Clara gets up during the middle of the night to play with her nutcracker prince doll. Drosselmeier appears as an apparition and, with a bit of magic, makes all the dolls come alive, who prepare to do battle with the advancing mice. The nutcracker prince rallies the troops. Firing corks and marbles, the mouse king is driven away.
On Christmas morning, however, the mouse king reappears, still wanting to exact revenge on the nutcracker prince. Clara calls out to Drosselmeier for help, and he again appears to re-animate the toys. The battle is enjoined once more, only this time Drosselmeier shrinks Clara down to doll size, so that she can join the other dolls in taking a wounded soldier into the magic castle where he can be restored.
The nutcracker prince asks Clara to stay, but Clara’s testimony of her place in the real world stiffens her companions to their doll state. Just then, the evil mouse king stumbles in. Will the mouse king be defeated? And, will the nutcracker prince ever achieve his human status?
THE NUTCRACKER PRINCE may not be appropriate for young children, mainly because some of the battle scenes with the mouse king are unnecessarily frightening, violent and intimidating. There is also almost a laughing disrespect that the mouse king son shows for his mouse queen mother. Furthermore, even though this is a flight into fantasy, parents should discredit the notion that magic can bring dolls to life, as well as take a stand against the casting of spells and the brief astrological and superstitious references that also occur.
The flashback storytelling sequence, which is really quite horrible because it comes close to bordering on the diabolical, has another strike against it — the animation is vastly inferior when compared to the rest of the film.
Overall, more of the film is on the positive side rather than the negative. The London Symphony Orchestra performs Tchaikovski’s ballet score, and good does triumph over evil in the end. The film is recommended with a strong caution, with parents urged to explain to their children beforehand the issues addressed above.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please address your comments to:
Mr. Robert A, Daly
Warner Brothers, Inc.
4000 Warner Blvd
Burbank, CA 91522
Brief astrological and superstitious references, "friendly" wizardly magic, scenes of battling and screaming which may be too intense and frightening for little ones.