The Nutcracker in 3D
Dir. Andrei Konchalovsky, UK and Hungary, Freestyle Releasing
The following is an instant-message conversation between Reverse Shot editors Michael Koresky and Jeff Reichert.
MK: So, thanks for accompanying me last night to The Nutcracker in 3D from the director of Tango and Cash... I woke up this morning with visions of Gestapo rats and immolated toys dancing in my head.
JR: At least that's all you woke up with. Given that production, it could have been so much worse for you. Remember the new Christmas classic musical number "It's Relative"?
MK: Sung by Nathan Lane playing Uncle Albert Einstein, who, for some reason, is this Nutcracker's version of crazy old Uncle Drosselmeyer?
JR: And the only one with a “Viennese” accent.
MK: And the only one who occasionally turns to the camera to address the extremely befuddled audience.
JR: But only twice! It felt like one of the film's many ideas that was half considered and then dropped for lack of interest.
MK: One of the things I wouldn't claim about this film, though, is a lack of interest.... apparently it was Konchalovsky's decade-plus-in-gestation dream project. Though I can't imagine why he was so taken with the idea of a Nazi version of The Nutcracker.
JR: I guess lack of interest may be the wrong way to put it. The film feels actually more like it has ADD. Direct address! Tchaikovsky musical numbers! 80s-style action blow outs! Nazis!
MK: I guess anything can be retrofitted to be about Nazis, especially children's films! Alice in Reichstag-land? The Velveteen Shoah? One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Jew Fish? The Wizard of Lodz?
JR: Claude Lanzmann, were he to see The Nutcracker in 3D, would literally take a dump on it.
MK: Speaking of retrofitting, it was hands down the worst use of 3D I've ever seen, and I've seen the Clash of the Titans . . . trailer.
JR: And why did they have to put “3D” in the title? It just cheapens the whole thing.
MK: Yes, one certainly wouldn't have mistaken it for cheap otherwise. It looked like the screen was bubbling up from behind in random spots. At one point Elle Fanning's head looked like a pizza bread bubble.
JR: The sad thing is that for a few moments at the beginning there were some interesting choices with camera movement/placement, a few slightly off-kilter reverse shots, solid production design . . . I felt like we might be in for another Christmas Carol (Zemeckis) which, for all its faults as a “big” movie, was still remarkably tactile.
MK: Yes, there was such promise in those first thirty seconds... Ah, to live in those thirty seconds.
JR: I knew we were in for it when a giant, bobbly-eyed Nathan Lane in a carriage was thrust into my face in 3D, and held on-screen doing that annoying Nathan Lane face for what seemed like forever.
MK: If we're talking about performances, big shout out to the Sugar Plum Fairy, played by Andrei Konchalovsky's wife, Yuliya Vysotskaya, whose entire role has been dubbed by what sounds like a narcotized valley girl.
JR: That was almost as disturbing as the rat dances by John Turturro, done up in rat-face latex and Barry Manilow fright wig. Where a fantasy like this should invite you in, convince you of the world and envelop you, this one was like constantly getting punched in the nose.
MK: Was it going for Jean-Pierre Jeunet? Terry Gilliam? Leni Riefenstahl??
JR: The action scenes at the end, though, were "classic" Konchalovsky.
MK: Classic. Hey, did you know that the Nutcracker itself (in this case a Pinocchio puppet dressed like Napoleon) was voiced by Shirley Henderson? And no that wasn't Shirley Henderson playing the 10-year-old boy the Nutcracker turns back into when broken from his spell.
JR: What the?
MK: I knew it sounded . . . off. And did you know that Tim Rice wrote the lyrics to those hideous Tchaikovsky-borrowed tunes?
JR: I think we can agree that there's nothing wrong with trying to put new spins/inject new life into classic tales, but there was just no consistency of vision or tone. I suppose I could also say something like "taste" was lacking as well. How the hell did this get put together? Were people just lining up to work with the man who brought us Runaway Train?
MK: He was once a cinematic force to be reckoned with, working with such top-flight talent as Eric Roberts and Jon Voight! Now he works with "Africa Nile," who plays Sticks! (You remember Sticks . . . he's the Rasta toy-man always ready to drum out some sweet tunes...that is until John Turturro pops his head off like he's plucking a turnip from the ground.)
JR: Again: taste was lacking.
MK: i doubt anyone other than a grumpy, out-of-touch Russian could get away with it.
JR: Have you seen any indication of why this was his passion project? There's nothing really to take from it, except some nonsense about the power of the imagination . . . at least I think Nathan Lane said something like that.
MK: Nazis...surely because of the Nazis. Maybe he likes Maus. This could have been called Ratz.
JR: Did you find Elle Fanning oddly sexualized? Especially at the end with the ripped dressed, bare shoulder thing?
MK: As far as movies tangentially related to ballet, it had me wishing I were watching Black Swan again . . . and that movie made me want to rip out my eyes.
JR: Nutcracker in 3D is actually probably more offensive and less coherent than Black Swan.
MK: But no masturbation scenes.
JR: So, score one for Konchalovsky