Wednesday, December 14, 2011
Barbie in the Nutcracker
Barbie's little sister Kelly is having trouble learning ballet and tells her sister about her stage fright. Barbie encourages her to keep at it and be brave, "Like Clara." Barbie then tells about Clara and her little brother Tommy, orphaned children who live with their grandfather Drosselmeyer. Their aunt Elizabeth visits early and after regaling Clara of her globetrotting, gives her a nutcracker soldier. Tommy tries to take it from her, but breaks its arm. After calling him "impossible," Clara falls asleep on the sofa.
That night, the owl on the clock and the toys come to life as the Mice, led by the Mouse King (one head, voiced menacingly by Tim Curry) scurry in. Clara tries to drop a vase on him, but he shrinks her to mouse-size with his wand. However, Clara manages to knock him out by throwing an ornament at him from the Christmas tree.
The Nutcracker says he must get back to his home land of Parthenia. He reveals the Mouse King turned him into a nutcracker and then the owl on the clock tells them they must find the Sugar Plum Princess, as only she can undo the Mouse King's magic. The owl gives Clara a locket that will take her back home.
Going through the mouse hole, they find Parthenia, and soon a gingerbread village that was destroyed by the Mouse King's troops. Finding a couple of children left, Clara and the Nutcracker journey on with them, until they are put on the run by more troops. They are rescued by the tree dwelling people of Parthenia. Supposedly, this is the only safe place. Captain Candy and the indignant Major Mint decide to help Clara and the Nutcracker see the Sugar Plum Princess.
Clara hears the story of Prince Eric of Parthenia. He was going to be king, but wasn't responsible enough to be king yet. So his father made the Mouse King regent until Eric learned to be responsible. But the Mouse King liked the power and Eric disappeared. Of course, Clara puts two and two together and sees that Eric is the Nutcracker, which he privately confirms.
Meanwhile, the Mouse King has been having his bat Pimm spy on the heroes and bring reports. When he hears of the Sugar Plum Princess, he looks for any mention of her. He can only find a brief description and sends a stone giant after our heroes.
Reaching the sea of storms, the heroes manage to defeat the stone giant and freeze the water, allowing them to cross to an island where the Nutcracker, Captain Candy and Major Mint are caught in a trap. Clara is helped by fairies back to the main land, where she manages to free the Nutcracker before he is thrown onto a bonfire.
The Nutcracker fights the Mouse King again and when the Mouse King is about to strike, Clara stops him. He's about to shrink Clara again, when the Nutcracker uses his sword to deflect it back at the Mouse King, shrinking him to the size of a normal mouse.
The Nutcracker is injured, but Clara kisses him, turning him back into Prince Eric. They realize that Clara is the Sugar Plum Princess and the Mouse King's evil magic is undone as everyone dances. Clara intends to stay until the Mouse King, riding Pimm, steals the locket and opens it, sending Clara home. (A child dispatches the mouse and bat with a snowball.) Eric tells her he loves her.
Back home, Clara awakes and can't find the Nutcracker. Aunt Elizabeth introduces a friend, a young man named Eric and he gives her a locket like the one the Mouse King took. We are shown a prince and princess dancing in a snowglobe.
Kelly, inspired by Clara's story, finally gets her dance moves right.
The music is used to good effect and the story is actually all right, but it suffers from plot holes, right off, why would the king, seemingly a human, give regency to a mouse over a trusted member of the court? How does Clara suddenly have magic powers? I mean, we saw some hints as flowers popped up in her footsteps as she walked through snow early in the film, but otherwise, it feels like it comes from nowhere.
The animation is all right, using motion capture for the ballet dancing, but the textures are too shiny. This looks just fine on the Nutcracker, since he's probably glossed as well as painted, but on human characters, it's wrong.
Overall, as a fan of the original Hoffman, changing Marie's sacrifices for Clara finding out she's a princess with magic powers just feels unsatisfying. It's telling you a stereotypical "save the kingdom" fantasy story instead of a really good story. After all, we saw this already in the Care Bears Nutcracker Suite.
Overall, feel free to give Barbie's Nutcracker a miss.
What makes this poor adaptation even worse to me is that about six years earlier, there was a faithful, if abbreviated, Barbie version of The Nutcracker. However, it was in comics.
In this issue, Barbie and her friends are going to do a charity performance of The Nutcracker but the stage gets ruined. Barbie saves the day by suggesting it be performed on ice. The story opens with Marie (played by Barbie) going downstairs to see her Nutcracker, but finds him and a toy soldiers battling mice. Marie ends the battle by throwing her shoe at the Mouse King and then goes to bed.
The next day, Marie's godfather visits and she tells him about the battle. He tells her about how a queen banished the mice from her kingdom, but the queen of mice threatened revenge by a curse on the princess. When the curse takes effect, the princess turns into a rat. A wise woman tells the queen that the Krakatuk Nut's kernel can break the curse, so the woman searches many years to find the nut and a young man to break it. When she finally returns successful, the princess is restored, but the young man turns into a nutcracker. The Mouse Queen arrives and says that the mice will destroy the Nutcracker.
Godfather suggests the Nutcracker needs a new sword, so Marie gives him a metal one. This allows him to defeat the Mouse King that night, allowing the Nutcracker to turn into a handsome prince. The narrator tells us they married.
Like I said, faithful, but abbreviated. Imagine how that would have been if turned into a CGI movie instead of this mess?