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I recently went to Disneyland with two little girls, ages two and five. One thing that surprised me about Disneyland that I'd never realized from previous trips: Disneyland can be fucking terrifying. Even the Winnie the Pooh ride, which was sold to us as the antidote to Pirates of the Caribbean ride (which made both girls cry) was scary. It showed a friendly stuffed animal trapped in a cave, then trapped in a storm, and then the rest is literally a psychedelic nightmare. All this to say: the Disney empire either has terrible judgment about what children will enjoy, or is mean and gets off on intentionally scaring them.

Which brings me to Disney’s latest holiday horror masquerading as a family film: The Nutcracker and the Four Realms. This is the potentially sweet story of a girl, Clara (Mackenzie Foy), whose mother died and leaves her a small locked orb, which Clara must find the key to, and the key is in a magical land full of castles and candy and snowflakes and flowers and clowns and possessed toys and abandoned amusement parks and towering rodent giants. Then there are also a couple of gorgeous ballet sequences starring famous ballerina Misty Copeland. The whole experience is all over the place; I’d estimate that the 100-minute runtime was about 25 minutes boring exposition, 45 minutes of decent Narnia/Hugo-esque fantasy adventure, ten minutes of ethereal dancing, and 20 minutes of pure nightmare fuel. Those Disney people are kind of dicks.


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