MOVIE REVIEW : Culkin Seems Out of Place in 'Nutcracker'


Macaulay Culkin has bright red candy lips in "George Balanchine's The Nutcracker" (citywide). They're practically phosphorescent. They could turn out to be the most famous pop star lips since Mick Jagger's.

Clearly this is not the insight one is supposed to take away from this film. But whenever Culkin, playing the Nutcracker Prince, turns up, the bottom tends to drop out of the ballet (dance review, F12). It's not that he's bad really, it's just that he keeps flashing that "Home Alone" smirk: You fear he may try to bop the Sugarplum Fairy.

The Tchaikovsky ballet is such a great old warhorse that it survives all this and more. The famed New York City Ballet production, derived from the choreography of George Balanchine and staged by Peter Martins, transfers to the screen relatively intact. Director Emile Ardolino, who died on Saturday at age 50, worked with Balanchine and directed many dance documentaries before he switched gears with such films as "Dirty Dancing" "Sister Act." He doesn't provide much visual excitement; compared to Carroll Ballard's lyrical, underrated "Nutcracker: The Motion Picture," which was designed by Maurice Sendak, this G-rated film version is stodgy.

But Ardolino keeps the focus on the dancers, and it is they, and not the camera, who provide the real lyricism. Isn't that the way it should be in a dance film?

'George Balanchine's The Nutcracker'

Macaulay Culkin: The Nutcracker Prince Darci Kistler: The Sugarplum Fairy Kyra Nichols: Dewdrop Bart Robinson: Cook Drosselmeier

A Warner Brothers release of an Electra Entertainment/Regency Enterprises presentation of a Krasnow/Milchan/Hurwitz production. Director Emile Ardolino. Producers Robert A. Krasnow, Robert Hurwitz. Executive producer Arnon Milchan. Adapted from the New York City Ballet production by Peter Martins. Story by E.T.A. Hoffmann. Cinematographer Ralf Bode. Editor Girish Bhargava. Costumes Karinska. Music Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Sound Frank Stettner. Running time: 92 minutes.

MPAA-rated G.

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