For a Christmas Disney film this I can tell there was a lot of effort to make this film not the same as “Alice in Wonderland” by Tim Burton. Though the film has a lot of great special effects, production design and character work — it fails to have something special beyond the surface level. This is a film about grief and learning how to deal with it and growing as a person. Though this is set at Christmas and has a lot of elements focused on the fact that it is Christmastime — it has nothing much to do with that. I appreciate the work that Mackenzie Foy does in leading the film as Clara — and she has true potential to be a leading star, this film doesn’t do her justice.
For the production design to bring the play to life they do succeed. I liked how the incorporated the play as a way to tell the story of how their world came to be and they had some great theater dancers who are quite famous to play in the film. This is where the film had it’s true authorship beyond the rich Russian-like visual color schemes. There were a lot of great moments in where you could see Disney being able to use the film’s four realms as attractions in theme parks and rides as added brand areas to expand. It felt there was a lot of attention to detail in there that should be appreciated. The clowns of the Amusement land felt a bit too creepy.
It’s Christmas Eve. A time of mystery, expectations, who knows what might happen?
The film does suffer from being a water-downed version of “Alice in Wonderland” minus the abundance of forced feminism. This film had better usage of that with Clara being interested in STEM, mainly engineering. That felt more organic and natural and less forced. Morgan Freeman and Helen Mirren are there for thankless roles instead of being well utilized. Kiera Knightley is interesting used as the film’s villain who personifies the feeling of denial in the stages of grief.
I wish that Disney was able to execute films beyond their other franchises and established properties and create something new and original but that is beginning to become proven to be even harder to pull off these days. I would say that this film isn’t horrible to watch it just doesn’t have that much substance to make it either a franchise or worth your high dollar beyond watching it on Freeform during the “25 Days of Christmas.” As a Christmas movie is something subpar to solid on a scale of entertainment.