Nutty and Cracked
You already know the score — duh da-duh-da-duh! duh da-duh-da-duh! — but in case you’ve forgotten, The Nutcracker in 3D will attempt to mainline it into your brain, fuel-injecting sugar-plum fairy juice into your festivus lobe at the drop of, um, a sugar plum. If you think that’s a horrendously mixed metaphor, it’s got nothing on this polar-express train wreck, in which Albert Einstein warbles would-be catchy tunes about how everything is relative, a steampunk Nazi Rat King wants to take over the world, a creepy nutcracker channels Pinocchio and becomes a real boy, and it’s all brought to you in weird and wobbly View-Master-style 3D.
It’s a good thing Tchaikovsky is dead, because this would have killed him. Those of you still living unfortunate enough to find this movie your sights may well find, as I did, that this big steaming pile of WTF is so unwatchable that you can’t tear your gaze away — it is actually almost literally unwatchable in some segments, the 3D is so nausea-inducing — and so unbearable you can’t bear not to find out how much more unbearable it can get. Which is a lot more unbearable than you might imagine from the merely excruciating opening bits.
Because how could it get any worse than Nathan Lane’s (Astro Boy, Swing Vote) Albert Einstein coughing terrible Tim Rice lyrics at poor Elle Fanning (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Deja Vu)? Her Mary is supposed to be his beloved goddaughter in 1920s Vienna, yet he tortures her with his awful song before giving her a nutcracker doll that’s intended to cheer her up. Because all pre-war Viennese little girls with American accents had stockpiles of chestnuts to get through, I guess. Mary’s pain-in-the-ass little brother, Max (Aaron Michael Drozin: Fun with Dick & Jane), breaks the toy, which she becomes psychically aware of in some manner the film fails to elucidate; no, really: he damages the toy when he’s alone, hides the evidence, and the next time she enters, she runs instantly to where Max has secreted the broken doll.
Perhaps Mary’s superpowers are what make the doll grow to kid size, start talking — call me “N.C.”; I swear, he really says that, using the voice of actress Shirley Henderson (Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, Doctor Who) — and insist he’s a prince from a neighboring kingdom. What neighboring kingdom? Well, what’s next door to Austria? Yup: the prince — now transformed back into a little boy (Charlie Rowe: Never Let Me Go, Pirate Radio), free of the enwoodening spell that had been cast upon him — has been ousted by steampunk rodent Nazis with Brooklyn accents, led by John Turturro’s Rat King. I am forced to wonder which aspect of the role Turturro (Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, The Taking of Pelham 123) considered more of a draw: Was it the rat makeup? The David Bowie-in-Labyrinth wig? The deeply terrible Tim Rice song he gets to sing about how he wants to rule the world and stuff?
Perhaps it is the presence of Nazi rats that gave screenwriters Chris Solimine and Andrey Konchalovskiy (the latter of whom also directed) the excuse they needed to get a singing Albert Einstein into a holiday fantasy: behind the scenes he is helping Mary and Max develop an atomic bomb to drop on the rat Nazis, if only to stop Turturro’s singing. It makes as much sense as anything else here.
You know how people say something is jaw-droppingly whatever? That is the honest truth here: my jaw actually dropped down as far as it could — more than once — as I found myself agog to discover that there is nothing so nutty, so cracked, that this Nutcracker could not outdo itself in that arena mere minutes later. Weird, creepy, and disjointed? Absolutely. But it’s also so random that literally anything could happen… and does. If you can sit it through to the end, you won’t be able to figure out how it got there. It’s so gloriously horrible that Santa Claus Conquers the Martians is going to have to shuffle over and make some room on the throne of Bad Holiday Movies.