There is every reason to approach "Nutcracker, the Motion Picture" (citywide) with the highest hopes. Its director is Carroll Ballard, whose eye and sure touch made "The Black Stallion" among a half-dozen of the best young people's films ever made, and who followed that with the haunting "Never Cry Wolf."
The design is by Maurice Sendak, geographer extraordinaire of the darker corners of children's psyches; illustrator and author ("Where the Wild Things Are," "Outside Over There" and countless more); and scenic designer of opera and now ballet.
The sets and costumes are glorious--the neoclassic period for Clara's house and family; a riotous seraglio for the second act; a pasha in a vast billowing turban like a Turk's head knot; a multi-headed Mouse King; a tiger under a red fez. It is the Sendak spirit triumphant. But as a dance film, or as coherent story, "The Nutcracker" (MPAA-rated G) is not only bad, it's boring. Part of the problem is the company: the Pacific Northwest Ballet, for whom Sendak mounted this vastly successful production in 1983. It owns it and, in all politeness, it is not one of the legendary companies of the world.
And so we have those fanciful designs--so wonderful that Lincoln Kirstein, New York City Ballet director, said that their magnificence "filled (him) with a violent greed and envy"--and a level of performance you would endure only if your child was third from the left in the front row.