The dog days of summer are here. It's hazy, hot, and humid, and no one feels like doing very much besides laying on the beach. In other words, it sounds like a perfect time to start thinking about the holidays. There are only 130 something shopping days until Christmas, after all. This must be why Disney's new Nutcracker & The Four Realms trailer decided a day in August was the perfect day to arrive. Because nothing sounds more like snow, cold, and candlelight than the strains of Tchaikovsky's iconic ballet score.
Except this isn't any old production of The Nutcracker. Tell Baryshnikov he won't be needed. Yes, there is some ballet. (Misty Copeland takes care of it.) But the film, which is entitled The Nutcracker & The Four Realms, isn't actually the Nutcracker story as any of us know it.
It starts out like every production of The Nutcracker:
A young girl named Clara (Mackenzie Foy) who receives a nutcracker doll from her godfather on Christmas Eve. When she goes to check on it later, the clock strikes midnight and she finds herself thrust into a fantastical world where she is in the middle of a war between gingerbread soldiers and an army of mice.
But somehow in the middle, it turns into a search through the Nutcracker's winter world for a key, with Drosselmeyer (Morgan Freeman) as a guide, The Plum Fairy (Keira Knightly) as a friend, and a Witch (Helen Mirren) as a foe.
The results look something like this:
The title, The Nutcracker & The Four Realms, sounds like the second act is going to feature all the different classic dances, except they're all plotting to steal the Iron Throne that Clara and her prince are sitting on. But if anything, the trailer makes it look more like a cross between a Narnia adventure and your standard Disney Princess fairy tale, with a bit of The Wizard of Oz thrown in for good measure.
But what bothers me most is the soundtrack. One can throw new narratives on top of The Nutcracker and update it in all kinds of way. Though most classical ballet companies strive to stay true to the original 1892 version, after 120 years, it's OK to tinker with the plot, or even rewrite it wholesale.
The problem is with the second trailer.
What makes Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker is the music. The iconic score should not be messed with. And this trailer is messing with it, with a slow indie cover of No Doubt’s “Just a Girl” laid over top, a song having zero to do with the story. You can't make Clara be a Secret Princess™ and then have her theme song be "Just A Girl." The whole point of going with a Chosen One narrative device is she's not. It's just, well, nuts.
Still, song issues aside, Disney has been doing really well with these live action film, and the call back to Fantasia (which used music from The Nutcracker Suite) in the top trailer suggests they plan to market this as another film following in that vein.
The Nutcracker and the Four Realms arrives in theaters well before the holiday season, on Nov. 2, 2018.