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Movie Reviews

Spotlight on: Barbie in the Nutcracker

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Barbie in the Nutcracker DVD Cover Owen Hurley's Barbie in the Nutcracker

One of the (many) interesting things about babysitting for friends is that it allows me to become a party to many films that I would not normally watch. On a recent weekend in June, I was treated to a viewing of the seasonally inappropriate Barbie in the Nutcracker.

Barbie "stars" as Clara, a young girl who receives a nutcracker from her favorite (black sheep) aunt. That night, she dreams she is on an adventure with the nutcracker. Said nutcracker is really a prince named Eric who has been cursed by the Mouse King (Tim Curry!) and can only be returned to his normal state upon the finding of the Sugar Plum Princess. Also in attendance are various fairies doing their thing to the music of Tchaikovsky.

I have been familiar with the story of The Nutcracker (originally written by E.T.A. Hoffman) since childhood, having seen it on stage as well as on various televised productions, including the famed George Balanchine production by the New York City Ballet (with a very out-of-place Macaulay Culkin) and an American Ballet Theatre version featuring Mikhail Baryshnikov.

I did not expect to give this film high marks upon being presented with the cover. Yet another merchandising ploy, I thought, and I attempted to steer the film viewing in another direction -- preferably towards something from Pixar.

Barbie in the Nutcracker is, of course, a rather dumbed-down version with moments of slapstick humor and the addition of an adventure. Only one thing saves it from being a total waste. To make the ballet more realistic, real dancers from the abovementioned New York City Ballet (dances choreographed by Peter Martins, NYCB's artistic director) were used as models for the computer-animated characters.

The dancing is simply marvelous, though out of place after all the silliness. This impromptu ballet was pleasant enough to divert my attention from the chaos ensuing around me from the children, who had completely lost interest. By this time, however, I had already decided that I might as well get a review out the experience and had begun paying attention on my own. And if you haven't guessed who the Sugar Plum Princess turns out to be ... well, you deserve to be left in suspense. What's next, Hamlet in the Big Blue House?

(Stoner alert: there is one scene in Barbie in the Nutcracker featuring Clara and the Nutcracker sliding down a chute. From their viewpoint, we see colors and stars flashing by right out of the "Star Gate" sequence from 2001: A Space Odyssey.)

This review is a truncated version of one that originally appeared on The Green Man Review. Copyright 2005. Reprinted with permission.

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