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It may be the time of year for sugar plum fairies, but the reviews for "The Nutcracker in 3D" haven’t been so sweet.
“From what dark night of the soul emerged the wretched idea for The Nutcracker in 3D?” – Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
“Spectacularly misconceived, bloated and incredibly ugly.” – Lou Lumenick, New York Post
“So many terrible ideas that the terrible execution is almost irrelevant: Even if the film were well done, it would still be a travesty.” – David Edelstein, New York Magazine
But how could a retelling of a beloved Christmas classic go so horribly, horribly wrong?
“I think when the response is so virulent and nasty, there’s something more at work than just dislike of a film,” Chris Solimine, who co-wrote the screenplay with director Andrei Konchalovsky, told FOX411.com exclusively. “It’s almost as if we drowned puppies!”
Instead of the traditional ballet set to the classical music of Tchaikovsky, the movie—filmed in 3D—takes a few artistic liberties.
Tchaikovsky now has lyrics penned by Tim Rice, of "Jesus Christ, Superstar" fame—a choice that left most critics unmoved.
“I don’t understand why it’s some kind of crime against creative humanity to put lyrics to Tchaikovsky,” Solimine said. “I don’t understand why that is so sacrosanct and why they feel it is such an extreme violation. It’s not as if we recorded over the only recording of Tchaikovsky’s music and we ruined it forever!”
Another sticking point for critics is John Turturro’s portrayal of the Rat King, a Hitler-esque character at war with the Nutcracker Prince.
“The main thing that seems to be the problem is that there a kind of Nazi symbolism of the Holocaust, and people feel that has no place in a holiday film,” explained Solimine. “When you read the original tale, there’s no story past the first act, so obviously, you create a bad character, he has to do something bad, and then you hope that kingdom is redeemed. So yes, there was a rat king and yes, he took over the Prince’s kingdom. That is what I think has spawned such an intense reaction.”
A wild-haired and mustachioed Nathan Lane plays Uncle Albert Einstein to Elle Fanning’s Young Mary—a point that had a few critics asking why an historical Jewish figure like Einstein would celebrate Christmas in the first place.
“That’s anti-Semitic, I’m sorry,” declared Solimine. “First of all, Einstein was an atheist and second, Jews aren’t allowed to come to their family’s home to celebrate a holiday? To me, that’s kind of ridiculous. He’s her favorite uncle, he’s the person who spawns her imagination, and to say he’s not allowed in the home or to bring a gift because he’s not a Christian? That’s absurd!”
The independently financed and distributed film originally had a budget of $40 million, which eventually ballooned to over $90 million.
So far it has only made a little over $90,000 at the box office.
But while the film may have bombed in the U.S., Solimine is encouraged about the film’s reception in Europe and Russia: “I think it’s going to do a lot better. It’s going to open on 1,000 screens as opposed to 50, and there’s a lot more advertising being spent over there.”
Director Andre Konchalovsky has been on vacation since the scathing reviews came out. But he did find time to send Solimine an email with one positive review: “Lisa Schwarzbaum from Entertainment Weekly gave it a B+. Compared to everything else, that’s huge. Her name is Schwarzbaum, so she didn’t seem to have a problem with Albert Einstein going to Christmas!”