Thursday, December 15, 2011

Щелкунчик (2004)

So, 2003 brought us another Russian animated adaptation of The Nutcracker, and the next year, it saw an English dub.

However, this "dub" did more than change the vocals. Scenes were cut and new ones added to accommodate what they thought would appeal to American kids. Unfortunately, given these were mainly jokes about modern day things rather than early 19th century Germany, the jokes are distracting. "I'll make you an offer you can't refuse!" says the Mouse King. "Like a mail-in rebate, or buy one, get one free!"

The adaptation is very loose, to say the least! The Mouse King (English voice: Leslie Nielsen) and two mice are stowing along on magician Drosselmeyer's wagon. As it reaches a town, it transforms into an elegant toy store.

Clara and her little brother Nicholas spot the store and visit, where Drosselmeyer tells them the story of a selfish young prince who was given a magic nut. He accidentally used to wish everything in the castle were toys, turning everyone into toys, and himself into a Nutcracker. The Mouse King, aided by his aunt's evil shadow, has been wanting the kingdom for his own and wanted to use the magic nut to take over the world with mice.

Clara asks if anything can be done, and Drosselmeyer says another magic nut can be procured from the land of Dreams which is only opened once a year on Christmas Day and the prince can only be assisted by a dreamer with a true heart. She takes the Nutcracker with her, and Drosselmeyer sends the toy servants after him to assist as they can.

The mice go to Clara's house, where, when Marie goes downstairs late at night to promise the Nutcracker her help, Drosselmeyer's mechanical bird arrives and brings all the toys to life. The Mouse King's aunt unleashes her knitted army of mice and they attack. The toys mainly putter around, the Nutcracker refusing to fight, until Marie's parents enter. The mice vanish, the Mouse King and his two assistants carrying away the Nutcracker. Clara is sent back to bed.

However, when Clara sees the Nutcracker being dragged away, she and the toys head off after him. The Mouse King sets termites loose on the Nutcracker, but a crow (Drosselmeyer's mechanical bird in disguise) eats them. They try to scare him with shadows, then fire, but accidentally set the little place on fire. (Whatever it is. It looks like they're in a graveyard.) Clara manages to save the Nutcracker and hurries to Drosselmeyer's shop.

Drosselmeyer says that he thinks Clara is the "true heart," and shows the Nutcracker the broken toys that used to be the Prince's servants. The Nutcracker thanks them, and his thanks magically fixes them. Drosselmeyer then tells Clara she must go to the Land of Dreams to get another magic nut but the way will close at midnight (which is in twenty minutes). Clara and the Nutcracker are transported through a mirror back to Clara's home, but she's now the size of the Nutcracker.

The Mouse King is waiting with his army, but Drosselmeyer supplies him with his own army. They fire food at the mice, which the mice gobble up, making them too fat to fight. Clara and the Nutcracker climb the cabinet to a glowing spot at the top, followed by the Mouse King. They reach the top and find a portal to the Land of Dreams, but when they reach the Nut, the Mouse King is there first. The Nutcracker and Mouse King fight while Clara (with help from the mechanical bird) dispatches the evil shadow who's been helping the Mouse King all along the way.

The Magic Nut is knocked down during the fight and the Nutcracker gets it, but the Mouse King holds Clara over the side of the building. The Nutcracker throws the Nut at the Mouse King, then leaps down to save Clara who was dropped anyway. Clara and the Nutcracker manage to grab a string and save themselves while the Mouse King wishes to be king of all the toys. He accidentally swallows the Nut whole and falls and hangs from a Christmas tree, where he turns into a Nutcracker ornament.

Clara finds herself in her living room, with the Nutcracker nowhere. Her mother takes her to the Christmas ball.

Drosselmeyer finds the Nutcracker on the street and assures him they can try again next year. But the Nutcracker wants Clara. Drosselmeyer tells him that this revelation was what was needed to restore him. In the English version, Drosselmeyer sends him onto the dance floor at the Christmas Ball, where he slowly turns back into a Prince, Clara's touch offering the finish. In the Russian, this happens behind a mirror, which Clara pulls him out of. The Prince's servants are also restored to humans. Clara and the Prince dance, and find the Mouse King as an ornament on the tree. When Clara touches him, he bites her, and she drops him, and the two mice assistants carry him away. (They joke that the story could be made into a book or a ballet.)

Drosselmeyer's shop turns back into a carriage, and he rides away, Clara and the Prince making their farewells, while the two mice assistants wonder if the Mouse King might find someone to befriend him someday.

Overall, I felt the story bore extremely little resemblance to Hoffman's story. Clara doesn't get to do anything really brave or do any sacrifice to prove her love, and the Nutcracker is no longer brave and dashing, just a kid. Also, the whole thing with him being a Prince feels unresolved: where's his kingdom? And making the Mouse King funny makes him sad: he just wanted a better way of living. Unlike his aunt, he didn't even want to take over the whole world.

This is even worse in the English version where too many jokes ruined any suspense. The jokes are corny, dull, and happen way too often. The re-done animation also stands out, making the look uneven, and I don't usually have an eye for that.

The music uses none of Tchaikovsky's score. Also, in the Russian version, the girl is named "Masha," which is their form of the name "Marie." However, in the English dub, she has the name Clara, which seems to be more familiar to American audiences.

Overall, with a few more touches from Hoffman and a better English language script, this could have been an interesting Nutcracker, but in the end, it doesn't feel special at all.

You can watch the Russian version below.


Ozaline said...

Yeah, the only added joke I really liked was

"Surley you must be joking"

"we told you, we're not doing that anymore."

Anyway, I thought this film was german, since I had scene the german trailer that you link at the top of the video and several German clips, but it's Russian hey? intersting.

Sam A M said...

I THOUGHT it was a dubbed film, but I didn't think it also had deleted/added scenes!
Just like season 2 of "DIGIMON: Digital Monsters" the translation had too many stupid jokes!

I thought the Mouse King was lousy, some jokes were dumb and the Prince/Nutcracker was unlikeable at times, too. And some of the animation was bad, I couldn't help but notice.

Am I the only one who actually thought of "Return to Oz" during the Mirror scene towards the end with the restoration?

I did Enjoy the "One True Heart" song/music video during the end credits, however.