The Nutcracker: The Motion Picture (1988)

I liked this more than Erin did, I think, but it eventually grated on me as well. This is also known as the Seattle Ballet Nutcracker, and that is a more appropriate name, as the largest problem with this was the tension between whether you were watching a dance piece or a movie.

I found the beginning rather charming, but eventually it was just long and strange. The surreal narration doesn't add much. The dancing is decently done, most of the time, and I'm sure it was fun to see live. The energy of the dancers just doesn't translate to film. The camera is often filming the least interesting part of the dance, and occasionally it seemed to me that the visuals were out of sync with the music.

Adding a few moments of awkward bluescreen does not change a piece intended for the stage to one suited for the screen. I had trouble staying interested through the Land of Sweets dances; some of the costumes and dancers were good, most just did not work on film. There were moments that I really liked in this, but they were almost entirely in the first half.

We're planning of hitting another version of Nutcracker or two this year, it remains to be seen whether anyone can adapt the ballet to film, or film the ballet, successfully. This production couldn't decide whether it was filming a stage version or making a movie, and so it doesn't really manage either one.


  1. Matthew and I are going to see the actual live in person Pacific Northwest Ballet Nutcracker on Sunday. I'll let you know how that is. While the Nutcracker generally doesn't thrill me, I've been wanting to see our local production because Maurice Sendak designed the costumes, and as a big fan of his children's books, I'm curious to see the costumes.

  2. My coworker and good friend was in this exact production. I am not going to tell him you didn't like it.

  3. Beth: Hopefully, the costumes and sets are better live and better now than in 1988. I'm a huge fan of Sendak, too, which was why I was as disappointed as I was. I think a lot of the sets will work better on stage: it was mainly the close-ups that didn't do them any favors. As for the costumes: the version we saw was from the 80's, so hopefully they've been updated. The designs looked like they could have been interesting, but they clashed with the dancing, rather than enhancing it. Again, they've had two decades to fine-tune, so hopefully they've made some improvements.

    Jesse: If your friend was a dancer in this production, they have nothing to be ashamed of. The primary issues were design and filming: not the performance.


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