Announced at Cannes in 2007 and scheduled to shoot that summer, Andrei Konchalovsky’s version of The Nutcracker arrives several Thanksgivings past its due date—CGI-enhanced, 3-D-retrofitted, and bizarrely high-concept. As co-scripted by Konchalovsky, The Nutcracker 3D is closer to the E.T.A. Hoffmann story “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King” than to Tchaikovsky’s snowflake-dusted Sugarplum Fairy fest; nominally set in 1920s Vienna, it’s less a dance-film than an operetta, with Tim Rice’s lyrics put to Tchaikovsky’s music. Nathan Lane, wearing a gray fright wig and mimicking Walter Slezak’s Sachertorte accent, is the kindly godfather; the little heroine is Elle Fanning, noticeably more childish here than she will appear next month in Sofia Coppola’s Somewhere, but nonetheless rivaling big sister Dakota’s knack for the sudden shrill scream. John Turturro plays the villainous Rat King in make-up that makes him look alarmingly like Phil Spector. Sigmund Freud is repeatedly name-checked, but the influence of another onetime Vienna resident is far more evident: The evil rodents who take over the city in a bit of 9/11-evoking terror are nothing less than Ratzis—they even operate an extermination camp for children’s toys, complete with crematoria. Konchalovsky not only anticipated Toy Story 3’s dump truck to hell sequence, he exceeded it. In one fantastic bit of business, Turturro (or his avatar) dances an exultant flamenco amid toys heaped in the street like bundles of confiscated clothing. The wildest thing about this movie is its faith that what kids (and parents) really want for Christmas is a Nutcracker version of the Final Solution.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on November 24, 2010