Newsies (1992) Kenny Ortega
Production Budget: $15 million
Gross: nearly $3 million
Newsies is loosely based on a true…okay, stop. It’s bad when cliches are so repetitive even I think of adding a yada yada yada to my reviews. Suffice it to say, don’t come to this movie for historical information and let’s focus on the actual movie.
Newsies was an attempt to bring back the musical. Music was actually developed for a script which was a drama bout the newsies strike in 1899. Alan Menkin, who did music for Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast, wrote the songs for the movie. Let’s also get out of the way the fact that the Dark Knight himself, little Christian Bale, is also in this movie. The story is about Jack Kelly (Bale) who is an experienced newsie who longs for a better life out in the west. He takes two new kids under his wing to teach about selling papers. Joseph Pulitzer (Robert Duvall), in an attempt to earn more money, raises prices for the newsies to buy papers in order to distribute them. This puts an unfair strain on the newsies who go on strike. The movie was one of the lowest grossing live action movies Disney has done but I think has done much better on home video.
I remember seeing this as a kid when it first came out and really liking it. I remember though I was the oddball of the group I went with and my parents still couldn’t get over the initial premise of making a musical about a strike. I guess if you could tie a certain thing to the reason this failed, I suppose that could be it. This isn’t your typical princess love story or even inspirational sports movie. This is a movie about strikes which I’m sure still has sharply divided opinions [insert Glenn Beck/Fox News/Rush Limbaugh joke here].
This movie does have much in common with the Disney formula though. You have the poor protagonist who raises himself up to a higher status, you have cute kid characters to root for, and you have a David vs. Goliath type inspirational story. When you look at it like that, Newsies accomplishes what it does rather well. It is rather refreshing to have a new take on an old storytelling convention. I like the fact this sort of story has not been done in a musical before. You become attached to the kids and want to see they succeed in their efforts.
The cast does a very good job. Considering the majority of the cast are kids (when most times kids are the worst actors in a film) they actually found some good talent. The best performance of course, goes to Christian Bale. Even at that age, he is still capable of carrying almost every scene he is in. He does a great job. Musicals though, either win me or lose me, by the music (obviously) and in this case I really like the music. There are a few memorable numbers and the choreography by Ortega makes the musical scenes really fun.
There are some bad parts to it. For one I didn’t really like Duvall as Pulitzer. He hams it up too much in trying to make Pulizer this over the top Disney villain when it really didn’t warrant it. There are also a few scenes where they try to shoe horn some Ann-Margaret numbers in there but her character does not fit. She serves no real purpose in the movie and her character could be cut out completely with no problems to the story.
This is a movie I have rediscovered due to the blog. I had not really seen it since it was first release and I don’t know why I haven’t seen it sooner. I think Newsies is a solid musical many people will enjoy and it was an undeserving bomb. This is an underrated Disney movie (a rarity) that I think people should check out.