RTurning back the years, The Nutcracker and the Magic Flute takes us back to the days before the advent of spirited young heroines in children’s animation – back to the days when the fate of a female character, more often than not, was to wait for a prince to show up, snuff out the bad guys, and make her his princess. That thankless role here falls to pretty, bland ballet dancer Marie (voiced by Alyson Leigh Rosenfeld), a young woman who, in the face of danger, screams and hides her face in her hands.
The film opens on Christmas Eve. Marie’s father died, leaving the family in debt. The obnoxious pawnbroker Mr. Ratter (Pete Zarustica) makes Marie a disgusting offer: marry him and he will let his family keep their house. Singing a savory, forgettable song (a warning – there are more to come), Marie dreams of being a carefree child again. Hey presto, his wish comes true. Marie shrinks to the size of a doll and her toys come to life. A nutcracker turns out to be a real prince called George (Dan Edwards), turned into a toy by a spell.
At this point, as the story shifted to a magical kingdom ruled by Prince George’s father, the film completely lost my five-year-old. (His verdict was a damning nudge — his very first for a movie.) The confusing plot involves a sinister stepmother and a magic flute. There are some nice details – best of all a beautiful talking scroll with light beams for the eyes. But the animation is average at best, and it’s really negligent to cut two fairy tale stories and turn them into something so unmagical.
Ultimately, at the eleventh hour, the filmmakers give the simpering Marie a moment of action – though disappointingly, even that involves a graceful ballet leap. What a family-friendly, festive turkey twizzler.