Cursed into the form of a talking cartoon fish by a half-mad deity known only as the Writer, the Infallible Fish has no idea who he is, or where he comes from, all he does know is that he has a burning urge to watch some animated stuff.
It’s Christmas. It’s Christmas! Bring out the mistletoe and wine. Let the snow start to fall, and the presents begin to gather underneath the tree. Isn’t it just the most wonderful time of year?
Truly wonderful. (Spoken in sarcastic tone with an eyeroll for good measure.)
What’s the matter Fish? Where’s your Christmas spirit?
At bottom of a bottle. Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas, and I have the festive spirit in spades, but sometimes… this season just depresses me.
How can Christmas be depressing?
It’s not Christmas, its how people use Christmas. This time of year consumes everything, especially the TV. Christmas specials litter the airwaves. Some of these are great, creative and fun. Others reuse the same old lazy plot threads that have been done a million times, like the grumpy guts, who sees the error of his ways and finally embraces the spirit of Christmas.
Sounds like someone I know.
Imagination? Creativity? Effort? Who needs those things? It’s Christmas, pile on the sugar and shove it down the audience’s throats until they vomit. They have no soul, they’re purely there to make money, and hypnotise the kids for a bit, and I hate that. It’s so insulting to the intelligence of kids. I know they’re only harmless fun, but should we really be showing kids that it’s ok to only do half a job? To settle for decent when you could go for excellent? Doesn’t sound like much of a Christmas message to me.
Oh come on Fish, you old Scrooge, Christmas specials and movies aren’t that bad.
Not all of them, no, some are really good, but some I will gladly pour brandy on to and set them on fire.
Name me one Christmas film that’s that bad.
I’m so glad you said that. Allow me to you introduce to ‘The Nuttiest Nutcracker’.
This is the classic story of the Nutcracker, as told by talking vegetables. Yes, you read that right, talking vegetables. Because if there’s just one thing that the Nutcracker was lacking, that could have made it exceptional, its food puns. And you can clearly see that these food creatures are so integral to the plot, I mean we have such deep characters as Cowboy Nut, Jamaican Nut (what no Brazilians? Now you’re just being lazy), we have…hold on a second, I just need to rub my eyes. Nope, I’m still seeing a broccoli in a tutu for no apparent reason.
Ok, let’s move away from that before my medication wears off. Ok, how about the human characters? Let’s see. Oh God my eyes! What kind of dead-eyed soulless monstrosity is this? Ok, ok, I should probably say this now, but the animation of this film is astoundingly bad. Now this is an old film, so I suppose that can be forgiven, but this really does look like some college student threw this together with his knockoff copy of 3D Studio Max. The characters and backgrounds have only one texture setting, plastic. The actual animation (if it can be called that) lacks any kind of weight or energy. All the characters look like blobs of plastic floating around the screen.
Back to the characters. Our lead female is the young Marie (young being the only identifier we have for her age, she looks like a teenage, but acts like a spoilt five year old). She’s an annoying little brat who can’t decide between whining about her favourite toy being broken, or her parents not being there for Christmas. If I were the parents, I’d stay out of the film for as long as possible. Our lead male is the Nutcracker, I’d talk about his personality, but he doesn’t have one. He’s just your bog-standard prince, there to be daring and charming.
Our villain is Reginald the Rat King, sorry, Mouse King. He’s ok (probably the only bearable character in this film). He’s crazy, egotistical and a big baby when he doesn’t get what he wants. It’s too bad that he’s completely pathetic, and isn’t threatening for even a second. He wants to steal the star from the top of the Christmas tree, as this will ruin Christmas because…just because. You see dear sweet Reginald never got any presents when he was a little rodent, so now he’s naturally turned evil (I see we’re going deep with the motivations of our tormented villain). And then he starts singing. Yes, because who really came here to listen to the Nutcracker Suite? (I know you keep trying to do segments of the film to the music, but stop pretending that you’re cultured, you’re just insulting a great piece of music.) Instead let’s sing songs about cheese puns (‘cause he’s a rat, get it!), and about believing in the power of Christmas. (Just believing, no actual effort required. It’s not like even Disney has learned that’s a bad lesson for kids.)
Things get even weirder as the film transports itself from Marie’s house to a sugar-filled candy land with very little explanation (because logical plot progression is something other films have). Marie is captured (gee a princess being kidnapped, how original), and it’s up to the Nutcracker and his band of pun-spewing vegetables to save her. Wait a minute, are those mice flying around on lumps of cheese? I’m not hallucinating right? This isn’t all some kind of bad fever dream. Actually, let this be a fever dream, then I can actually stop reviewing this fermented pile of vegetable extract.
Anyway, they fight the Rat King, they rescue Marie, but oh no! The Christmas star is lost in a molten river of, well I think it’s supposed to be cheese, but it looks more like excrement to me. Marie is the first person to be nice to the Rat King, and now he’s good, revealing that he saved the Christmas star. (Joy, oh joy. This is truly a wonderful occasion. Can you not see me bounding about with how excited I am?)
They group finally make it to the Sugar Plum Fairy’s castle (through the power of belief! I’m resisting the urge to make a Naruto reference here). Now the Sugar Plum Fairy is the most annoying character in this molten cheese river of a movie. She keeps dropping in to dump exposition, then hijacks the end credits to complain about not getting enough respect. (I swear to God women, if you don’t let the movie end I’m going to flambé you.) Now this is her big moment, the group have brought her the Christmas star so that she can put it atop the tree, and what does she do? Nothing. ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! She tells Marie to believe, for the Christmas star has magical powers that no one understands. Marie throws the star into the air, and everything is fixed. (Obviously the star held the power of plot convenience.) Marie wakes up to find her parents have arrived, and the Nutcracker is now a handsome young prince (who her parents have never met before, yet still let into their house?) Oh what do I care, this nightmare is finally over.
Now I don’t like to hate things, I always try to find something good in everything I watch, but there is just nothing here. Maybe the filmmakers here had good intentions; perhaps they genuinely believed this would be a good film. If that’s true I commend them on the strength of their delusions, but this is not a good movie in any sense.
This film is pandering nonsense designed purely to keep kids entertained with the most basic plot and moral imaginable. It’s like dangling shiny keys in front of their face for an hour, actually I think that would be preferable, rather than subjecting them to this mess. There is no heart to this film, no soul, or passion. It’s cheap and nasty, pumped out in time for Christmas, just so some poor sap can actually buy it. Christmas is a wonderful time, full of joy, and cheer, a time of giving to others. It’s a shame none of that sentiment made it into this film. If you want a film to keep the kids quiet for an hour or more, stick on Frozen or something. Don’t let people think that we should put up with this kind of lazy nonsense. Kids are smarter than they look, and they deserve better than this.
Well I certainly feel cheery after that.
I’m sorry, but this film is just abusing Christmas, and the Nutcracker, for its own corporate purposes, and I will not stand for that. Pass me the brandy.
Need a match?
No I’ve got one.
Want to roast some chestnuts?
Do people actually do that?
I guess so. I’ll go get some. We’ve got to start filling you with holiday cheer. After this we can sing carols, and we need to put up a tree, and coat the house in enough lights so that it can be seen from space. Oh there’s just too much to do, I’ll have to make a list. Stay here. Oh the weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful…
Oh bah humbug.
Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.