Pre-adolescent girls may be charmed by sugary sweetness of “Barbie in the Nutcracker.” But they shouldn’t expect their parents, or even slightly older siblings, to join them for repeated viewings of this made-for-video trifle. Loosely based on the classic Tchaikovsky ballet, which itself was adapted from an E.T.A. Hoffman tale, computer-animated feature does little to extend its appeal beyond target aud. Expect respectable but far from miraculous sales and rentals.
Pic is first starring vehicle for Barbie, the enormously popular doll and pop culture icon manufactured by Mattel. (Toy company co-produced pic.) Even though she’s more than four decades old, ageless Barbie is reasonably persuasive as a teenage ballet instructor who narrates a revised version of the “Nutcracker” yarn. Barbie (voiced by Kelly Sheridan) appears in her own story as Clara, the plucky heroine who aids the eponymous wooden hero (Kirby Morrow) in a battle against the wicked Mouse King (Tim Curry, enjoying himself to the fullest).
Opening scenes indicate ballet will figure prominently in proceedings. But except for a few dance interludes in the final minutes — Peter Martins is credited as choreographer — “Barbie in the Nutcracker” is primarily a generic fantasy-adventure, more than slightly influenced by “The Wizard of Oz.”
Good guys set out on a journey to find the legendary Sugar Plum Princess, who presumably will be able to transform the Nutcracker back into a handsome prince, send Barbie/Clara back to her home and family and free a fairy-tale kingdom from the autocratic rule of the Mouse King.
Trouble is, it’s much easier to root for the bad guy, since the Mouse King is the most animated character in this visually undistinguished animated feature. By contrast, Barbie is a real stiff. She looks like — well, like a plastic doll. Most other characters are equally bland.
Overall, pic suggests something the makers of “Toy Story” might have done as a warm-up exercise.