Nutcracker: The Motion Picture (1986)

nutcracker the motion picture poster 1986 movie
7.0 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 7/10
Visuals: 8/10

Good looking stage performance

Ballet is not for everyone

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Nutcracker:  The Motion Picture

Studio:  Atlantic Releasing Corporation

Genre(s):  Musical/Seasonal/Family

Release Date(s):  November 26, 1986

MPAA Rating:  G

nutcracker the motion picture vanessa sharp dreams

These sugarplum fairies are getting out of control!

On a Christmas Eve, Clara (Vanessa Sharp) is always happy to experience the magic of the holidays.  When she receives a nutcracker, she falls in love with it…but the actions of her brother Fritz (Russell Burnett) breaks her dreams.  Fortunately, Clara’s eccentric godfather inventor Herr Drosselmeier (Hugh Duncan Bigney Mitchell) is able to mend the nutcracker, and when everyone else goes to bed, Clara (Patricia Barker) discovers herself on a magical journey of love and dance.

Directed by Carroll Ballard, Nutcracker:  The Motion Picture (sometimes called Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Nutcracker or Nutcracker) is a season ballet fantasy adventure.  The film is an adaptation of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovky’s 1892 ballet which adapted “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King” 1816 story by E.T.A. Hoffmann.

nutcracker the motion picture creepy godfather drosselmeier hugh duncan bigney mitchell

Oh yes…she will be mine!

I don’t know a lot about ballet, but like many people The Nutcracker is one of the few ballets that I have much knowledge of.  While I can’t rate the dancing, the film is a solid telling of the story with added depth that sometimes is missed on the stage.

The story emphasizes the coming-of-age story.  Clara is at an awkward age.  She loves being a child and loves the Christmas holidays, but she’s also on the verge of puberty.  She is starting to be made uncomfortable by the creepy leering godfather (who seems too into her) and all her attempts to hold on to childhood are washed away in her dreams where she finds herself older and once again facing someone who looks like her godfather who has a sexual interest in her.  The whole story is expressed with little dialogue (there is a narrator at times) and the dance becomes the forefront.

nutcracker the motion picture rat king

Just because I’m a rat doesn’t mean I’m a bad guy

Not being a good judge of dance, I can’t say if the dance is above or below the dancing standards, but I can assume with a professional level troupe and a film version it is probably quite good.  On the acting front, the movie is essentially a stage play and not much seems to be done to transform it into an actual film…though I do like the creepy, lecherous uncle.

The visuals of the movie are interesting and part of the reason is that Maurice Sendak is behind the designs.  Sendak who is known for Where the Wild Things Are is a good fit for The Nutcracker since he blends creepy and accessible.  In addition, Where the Wild Things Are has some matching themes with characters trying to hold on to childhood.

Nutcracker:  The Motion Picture isn’t a bait and switch.  It is The Nutcracker so if ballet isn’t necessarily your thing, don’t go into The Nutcracker:  The Motion Picture expecting something else.  For those with a mild interest or limited understanding, the movie is a nice (and relatively short) production that tells a classic tale is a way with a little more meat…and in that sense, it is worth checking out.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

Leave A Response