Although most of us haven’t finished digesting our Halloween candy yet, two new Christmas movies are already playing in theaters.
Grinchier Than Advertised
Dr. Seuss’ 1957 classic holiday tale, has already been filmed twice, as an animated TV special in 1966 directed by Chuck Jones, featuring the voices of Boris Karloff and Thut Ravenscroft and as a live action film in 2000, directed by Ron Howard. and starring Jim Carrey. The new film, The Grinch, features the ubiquitous Benedict Cumberbatch as the green-furred grouch who decides to stop the holiday by stealing all the decorations, presents, and food. Do we need a third version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas? And do we need it nearly two months before Christmas?
The Nutcracker ballet has been a Christmas tradition for generations. Disney’s new 3D animated film The Nutcracker and the Four Realms tells a much darker version of the tale of Clara, the girl who receives a magical nutcracker as a present from her mysterious godfather, Herr Drosselmeyer. This adaptation is supposed to be closer to E. T. A. Hoffman’s original 1816 short story, “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King.” Hoffman’s writings have fallen out of fashion, but inspired much of the stesmpunk movement. My family and I saw the movie today, and I intend to go to the library tomorrow to see whether or not they have the story.
I predict this movie will become as much of a traditional Christmas favorite as “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” the music and costumes are wonderful; it’s impossible to go wrong with Tchaikovsky. There are no opening credits. The movie goes straight from an aerial view of the magic realms of Disney to a picy’s eye view of the castle to an owl swooping over Dickensian London. in winter. The owl chases a mouse into the Stahlnaum house, where it is captured by Clara and her little brother Fritz by way of the laws of physics and a Rube Goldberg device. Keep your eye on that owl and that mouse, they’ll both turn up later.
Clara, like Shuri of Wakanda, is Disney’s new STEM princess.
Anyone who’s lost someone they love knows the first holiday without them is the hardest. The Stahlbaum family lives in Victorian London, and they’re about to celebrate their first Christmas without their mother. However, the late Marie Stahlbaum (played by Anna Madeley in flashbacks) left presents for her three children, to be opened on Christmas Eve, not Christmas. Louise gets her mother’s favorite dress. Fritz gets toy soldiers. Clara receives a locked golden egg, but not the key to unlock it, Seeing her godfather’s mark on the egg, Clara (played by Mackenzie Foy, who appeared in the Twilight movies, and whom turns 18 in two weeks) sensibly decides to consult her godfather, Herr Drosselmeyer (played by the inimitable Morgan Freeman) who seems half mechanic and half mage.
After receiving her Christmas gift from Drosselmeyer (not a nutcracker), she finds her way into the Four Realms, a magical land discovered by her mother, and where her mother is still revered as queen. She meets a handsome guard (played by Jayden Fowora-Knight, who previously appeared in Ready Player One), a Nutcracker Soldier like her brother’s Christmas present and her mother’s favorite Christmas tree ornament. The Nutcracker, Captain Philip Hoffman, escorts Clara, whom he greets as a princess, to the palace where the three Regents govern three of the Four Realms. Sugarplum explains to Clara about her mother, the beloved Queen Marie, and about the current political system in the Four Realms. Sugarplum (played by Keira Knightley, Elizabeth Swann in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies) is the Regent of the Land of Sweets. She does has wings, but is never specifically referred to as a fairy.
The other tealms are the Land of Flowers, the Land of Snowflakes, and the Land of Amusements. Anyone who is afraid of clowns won’t like the matryoshka dolls who fight for Mother Ginger played by Dame Helen Mirren, who won an Oscar for her role as Elizabeth I in The Queen; Mother Ginger is the regent of the Fourth Realm (the other regents refuse to even speak the name of her land).
Clara is asked to end the war between the 4th Realm and the other three. With a blend of courage, compassion, and a knowledge of the laws of physics, Clara takes on the challenge of her life.
Would you expect anything less from Herr Drosselmeyer’s goddaughter and the newest Disney princess? Never underestimate a STEM girl.
A Peak Experience
Jenny Beavan may win another Oscar for costume design. She already won Oscars for Best Costume Design for A Room with a View and Mad Mac Fury Road.. At the very least, she’ll give Ruth Carter, the costume designer for Black Panther a run for her money.
Steampunk fans will love the clockwork gears, the costumes, and the dancing, both waltzes and ballet.
These two Christmas movies both released in early November. I haven’t heard of any Hanukah, Solstice or Diwali movies being released so far in advance of their respective holidays, nor have I heard of any Hanukkah or Winter Solstice movies. Thugs of Hindostan is scheduled to be released November 7, the day before Diwali.
As a mother and a fantasy fan, I recommend The Nutcracker and the Four Realms as a fun movie. It’s rated PG. The action scenes may be too intense for very young children. My teenager enjoyed it, and perhaps that’s the best measure of all.
Susan Macdonald is the author of the children’s book “R is for Renaissance Faire”, as well as 26 short stories, mostly fantasy in “Alternative Truths”, “Swords and Sorceress #30”, Swords &Sorceries Vols. 1, 2, & 5, “Cat Tails” “Under Western Stars”, and “Knee-High Drummond and the Durango Kid”. Her articles have appeared on SCIFI.radio’s web site, in The Inquisitr, and in The Millington Star. She enjoys Renaissance Faires (see book above), science fiction conventions, Highland Games, and Native American pow-wows.