It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
There are no doubt those who leap with glee as the holiday season approaches, eager to have another chance to see "The Nutcracker." I am not among their number. I've had it up to here with "The Nutcracker," which has been so overexposed that even Tchaikovsky's wonderful music has become too familiar. There ought to be some kind of rationing system for great music; United Airlines should be ashamed of buying the rights to "Rhapsody in Blue" and making it cheap as a commercial jingle.
All of which brings us to "George Balanchine's the Nutcracker," the first movie, so far as I know, with a possessive title in honor of a dead choreographer. Usually that honor goes only to living directors with clout, as in "Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas." Tchaikovsky and Balanchine and the New York City Ballet notwithstanding, this "Nutcracker's" biggest name is twee little MacAulay Culkin, who plays the nutcracker and doubles as one of the children treated to a night's fantasy of dance and enchantment.
Culkin does not dance in the film, aside from a few hops, a jump and a skip or two. What he does, mostly, is smile, in closeup, where he seems to be wearing more lipstick than the ballerinas.
Considering Macaulay's current stature in Hollywood, Ralf Bode's cinematography does him no favors. He seems peripheral to all of the action, sort of like a celebrity guest or visiting royalty, nodding benevolently from the corners of shots. And one closeup shows Macaulay and his little-girl friend so ill-lighted that they can hardly be seen.
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