Review in a Hurry: This excruciatingly awful reimagining of the Nutcracker story, starring Elle Fanning (Dakota's sis) as the lonely girl who frolics with a wooden soldier, should only be suffered by the very naughtiest.
The Bigger Picture: Who's the audience for this nutty Nutcracker? Fans of the beloved ballet will be bummed there isn't a tutu or a pas de deux in sight. Purists will object to the inartistically interjected songs pairing new lyrics with Tchaikovsky's melodies. And kiddies hoping for Christmas cheer will likely be scared by the increasingly dark tone and intense effects.
By the time Nazi-like rat soldiers with robo-copters and motorcycles finish zooming through fireballs with their machine guns blaring, you'll be begging for a sugarplum fairy to dance by. But no sugarplums for you—just this plumb mess.
Loosely adapted from the story that inspired Tchaikovsky's ballet, the movie is set in 1920s Vienna. On Christmas, 9-year-old Mary (Fanning) receives a nutcracker doll from her Uncle Albert (Nathan Lane)—who's Einstein, apparently, since he sings about the Theory of Relativity. Uhhh...Huh?
That night, her nutcracker comes to life, and "Prince N.C."—as he prefers to be called (what is he, a rapper?)—leads Mary into his fantastical kingdom of annoying toys. Together they try to end the tyrannical rule of the evil Rat King (John Turturro, made up like a rodent/Andy Warhol hybrid).
N.C. doesn't resemble any traditional nutcracker. With his round head, googly eyes and screechy voice, this charmless doll is more like a South Park character—or a low-rent Pinocchio. More puzzling is why he speaks with a different voice when he sporadically turns into a real boy.
There's little logic—or magic—in this Hungarian production (directed by Russian filmmaker Andrei Konchalovsky), which feels lost in translation and heavily retooled. Awkward pacing, clunky dialogue, stiff acting and pointless 3D are woven together to create something even more appalling than that sweater your aunt gave you last Christmas.
The 180—a Second Opinion: There's a lot of money on the screen—elaborate special effects, costumes, makeup and overblown action sequences. Too bad none of it adds up.