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Little magic in 3-D `Imax Nutcracker’

SHARE Little magic in 3-D `Imax Nutcracker’

"The Imax Nutcracker," an abridged, mostly nondancing version of the Tchaikovsky ballet, is the movie equivalent of a Christmas tree smothered with tinsel or a layer cake that's so rich it can only be consumed in tiny nibbles.

In compressing E.T.A. Hoffmann's classic story, "The Nutcracker and the Mouse King," into a three-dimensional environmental experience in which a little girl faints, then awakens to find herself surrounded by giant living toys, Christine Edzard, who wrote and directed the film, has created a holiday dreamscape that is considerably darker in tone than the ballet. Although the Tchaikovsky score plays continuously in the background, the majestic sweep of the staged "Nutcracker" has been replaced by an almost claustrophobic sense of population density, of being the smallest person in a crowd of strangers who don't speak your language.In this version of the familiar story, a contemporary English family of four visits the home of Uncle Drosselmeier (Heathcote Williams), an eccentric, monocle-wearing collector of priceless antique toys. After serving 8-year-old Clara (Lotte Johnson) and her 10-year-old brother, Frederick (Daniel Wylie), chocolate cake, Drosselmeier gives them a tour of his treasures. The boy is bored and peevish, but Clara is enchanted and finds herself drawn to a miniature spun-sugar castle housed in a glass case.

Before the family departs, Drosselmeier gives Clara her Christmas present, a wooden nutcracker in the shape of a hussar. Out on the street, Frederick impulsively seizes his sister's gift and tosses it onto an icy pond. As her parents frantically urge her to come back, Clara stumbles after the nutcracker and faints, waking up in a room that resembles her uncle's house except that his toys have grown in size and come to life. When a group of giant mice appears, Clara and the nutcracker drive them away, the little girl delivering the coup de grace by throwing her shawl over the seven-headed Mouse King. The nutcracker then metamorphoses into a handsome young prince who escorts Clara to his spun-sugar palace for a triumphal celebration.

For sheer opulence, "The Imax Nutcracker," which opens Wednesday at New York City's Sony Lincoln Square Theater, is certainly impressive. Its cast includes 150 performers from the worlds of mime, circus and street theater paraded across nine different sets.

Although using 3-D to transport young audiences inside the magic world of "The Nutcracker" sounds delicious, "The Imax Nutcracker" never feels magical. Instead of an invitation into a sweeping storybook dream, it is like being in a department store at the height of the Christmas season and not knowing where to look.