A Not So Cracked Nut

Balanchine's classic Christmas fantasy finally makes it to the screen, but some of the magic is missing

With its innocent story and the grand emotional pull of its Tchaikovsky score, The Nutcracker is one children's entertainment that rarely fails to work magic: every expectation aroused by the music is abundantly satisfied by the dreamlike cogency of the fantasy onstage.

This week the fable will reach the big screen. Warner Bros. is releasing a major film of George Balanchine's classic 1954 production, performed entirely by New York City Ballet dancers; children from the company's crack training ground, the School of American Ballet; and starring none other than former student Macaulay Culkin, who settled for $10,000 (he recently made an...

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