With 2021 soon coming to a close, this will be my last movie review and my last blogathon entry of the year! Because the Christmas season is upon us, I figured a Christmas flick was the way to go! As was announced by MovieRob, December’s Genre Grandeur theme is Non-Disney Animated Films of the 90’s. While looking for possible titles through a general internet search, I came across The Nutcracker Prince from 1990. Prior to writing this review, I had heard of the film. But I had never seen it. Over the years, it has been said most movie adaptations of The Nutcracker ballet are bad. Since I’ve only seen the Barbie version many years ago, I can’t agree or disagree with this statement. So, for this review of The Nutcracker Prince, I will only be judging the 1990 title.
Things I liked about the film:
Use of color: The Nutcracker ballet is a production that is known for being colorful. Therefore, the use of color in an adaptation of this story can make or break it. The way color was used in The Nutcracker Prince complimented the source material! One good example is the Christmas party at Clara’s family’s house. The primary colors in the background were a faded red and coral. But Clara’s dress boasted a hue of sea foam green. This color selection allowed Clara’s dress to stand out against the background. It also gave Clara as a character definition and focus.
Utilizing the ballet’s musical pieces: Another iconic part of The Nutcracker ballet is its music! From the ‘Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy’ to ‘Waltz of the Flowers’, these pieces of music have become a staple in not only the soundtrack of Christmas, but also in the world of classical music. What’s interesting about the ballet’s music in The Nutcracker Prince is how it was utilized in different parts of the story from the original show. The ‘Waltz of the Flowers’ can be heard twice in this film. The first time is during Clara’s family’s Christmas party, as the adult attendees are dancing a waltz. The second time is when Clara is dancing with the Nutcracker in the middle of the night. Only this time, she’s singing a song called ‘Save This Dance’, with the music from ‘Waltz of the Flowers’ serving as a background melody. Using these pieces in different contexts show how versatile they are. They elaborate a scene’s specific tone as well.
A backstory for the Nutcracker: In The Nutcracker ballet, the audience watches as the Nutcracker transforms into a human. Since there are no explanations provided for this transformation, the audience is forced to accept what happened at face value. In The Nutcracker Prince, the creative team makes sure to provide their audience with a backstory for the titular character. I can’t get into detail about this part of the story, as I don’t want to spoil the movie. But all I’ll say is there is an explanation given for why this character becomes a nutcracker. I like how this film’s creative team took a part of the ballet and gave it a new story. This shows one example of how they respected the source material while also bringing something new to the table!
What I didn’t like about the film:
No Land of Sweets: What sets The Nutcracker apart from other ballets is the second half of the production, reserved for the Land of Sweets. This is the part of the story where Clara and the Nutcracker visit the aforementioned land where sweet treats are brought to life through dance. The Nutcracker Prince omits the Land of Sweets. Instead, this land is replaced with The Land of the Dolls. From a creative perspective, I understand why the movie’s creative team made this decision, as they didn’t want to copy-and-paste the source material. But, on the other hand, I was disappointed by the lack of the Land of Sweets. That’s because I was curious to see how the ballet’s second half would translate to animation.
The amount of focus on The Mouse King vs. The Nutcracker: Within the ballet’s first half, the Nutcracker fights in a duel with The Mouse King, the villain in the story. Like The Nutcracker Prince, this duel served as a conflict in the ballet. However, it lasted for only one scene. In the movie, the conflict takes up the majority of the plot. Similar to what I said earlier, I understand why the film’s creative team made this decision, as they wanted to provide their story with a solid conflict. But because of that decision, it took away time from exploring The Land of the Dolls and showcasing elements from the Land of Sweets.
Unclear parts of the story: Within The Nutcracker Prince, there were a few parts of the story that I wish were clarified. On Christmas Eve, after Clara receives a doll named Marie, her parents say this is the last doll Clara will get. With little to no context provided, I was unsure if Clara was simply growing up or was about to pass away. At several points in the film, Uncle Drosselmeier mentions his nephew. To prevent spoilers from being revealed, I won’t share too many details about that part of the story. However, when Drosselmeier’s nephew does appear in the film, I was confused of the identity of this character. I’m assuming that information was supposed to be heavily implied. However, if it was related to the plot, it should have been clearly explained.
My overall impression:
As I said in my introduction, I’ve heard most movie adaptations of The Nutcracker ballet are bad. The Nutcracker Prince from 1990 has been included in that conversation. But now that I have seen this movie, I can finally give my own honest opinion about it. With that said, I personally thought it was fine. With any adaptation, The Nutcracker Prince is not the “end all, be all”. Sure, there are parts of the story that could have been stronger. But I will give this film credit where it is due. Similar to what I’ve said about remakes, a good adaptation should do two things: respect the source material and bring something new and unique to the table. I can honestly say The Nutcracker Prince does both of those things! The story itself goes in different directions than the ballet. At the same time, the movie’s creative team uses elements of the ballet to their advantage, such as the colorful palette and the musical pieces. So, if you’re a fan of The Nutcracker, animated movies, or lesser-known projects of the ‘90s, then I would suggest adding The Nutcracker Prince to your to-watch list this Christmas season!
Overall score: 7.1 out of 10
Have you seen any film adaptation of The Nutcracker? Are there any animated movies you like watching during the Christmas season? Please tell me in the comment section below!
Have fun at the movies!