Capsule reviews by Desson Howe unless noted.


THE NUTCRACKER PRINCE (G) -- In this disappointing Canadian animated version of E.T.A. Hoffman's "The Nutcracker and the Mouseking," young Clara finds a wooden nutcracker under the Christmas tree which, her Uncle Drosselmeier tells her, is really a prince under the spell of a wicked Mousequeen. In order to return to human status, the Nutcracker Prince must defeat the Mousequeen's son, the Mouseking -- who intends to kill him. He must also win the heart of a fair maiden. When Clara awakens one night, she finds the Land of the Dolls is very real, enters it willingly and helps the Prince against his rodent foes. A visit to this movie with kids certainly won't be wasted. Where Hoffman's basic story comes through, the movie is good, helped by off-screen performers Kiefer Sutherland (as the Nutcracker Prince), Phyllis Diller (the Mousequeen) and Peter O'Toole (Pantaloon, a seasoned toy cavalry officer) and the music of Tchaikovsky. But the animation is terrible. Although the filmmakers hand-painted the images and eschewed computer enhancement, they forgot to be manually creative. The drawings are poisonously dull and un-evocative. Young eyes -- and older ones for that matter -- deserve better. Area theaters.