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   ANASTASIA (1997) 

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CAST
Meg Ryan
John Cusack
Kelsey Grammer
Christopher Lloyd
Hank Azaria
Kirsten Dunst
Angela Lansbury

DIRECTED BY

Don Bluth
Gary Goldman

PURCHASE


DVD



Soundtrack




Time: 90 mins.
Rating: G
Genre: Animation/Family/Musical


Fox's first foray into the traditional animation fray is an old-fashioned, historically dubious musical that has it's fun moments, but is, in the end utterly forgettable. They get a great vocal cast to bring to life this oft-told tale of the Princess Anastasia, rumored to have survived the brutal slaying of the Russian royal family during the Revolution. This being a film for children, the aspects of revolt and bloodshed are kept to a minimum, but the basis for the story is taken from real life. It greatly diverges from there, managing to entertain without ever truly engaging.

After barely escaping the revolution, Anastasia reemerges 10 years later as an orphan named Anya with no memory of her past life. Dimitri (Cusack), once a kitchen boy in the palace, finds her and tries to turn her remarkable likeness to the missing Princess into financial gain for him and his partner. Anya, on a desperate search to reunite with her family, is the perfect sucker for his plans. He convinces her that she's the Princess Anastasia and begs her to accompany him to Paris to prove it to the Empress, her grandmother.

What he doesn't realize is that if she is truly the rightful heir, she has powerful enemies that want to ensure she never reaches her destination. The spirit of Rasputin (Lloyd), once the family's physician, is bent on revenge for his destruction and will stop at nothing to finally get rid of Anastasia. Of course, their narrow escapes from death only serve to bring the couple closer together. Dimitri begins to have doubts about his plan and starts to truly believe that he's actually found the real princess. In the end, the princess proves to be even more resilient than anyone gave her credit for. She not only reunites with her family, she finally finds true happiness with the man of her dreams.


"If we get out of this alive, remind me to thank you."

The filmmakers actually do a fairly believable job of turning the myth of Anastasia into a decent film about self discovery and discovering your role in life. The character of Rasputin, along with his sidekicks, serves to give the film a touch of danger and adventure, but is such a cookie cutter villain that his presence never really makes much of difference. The romance plays out predictably with her renouncing her throne in order to be with Dimitri. Pardon? After making such a fuss about finding her family – several songs are devoted to this theme – she gives her life as a princess up for a con man she barely knows? I know this is a cartoon, but come on.

My question is – why did she have to give up her life? She was the only living heir to the Russian throne. Her people were so happy to have her back she probably could've married a leper and they still would love her. Her grandmother had no problem with Dimitri. So why leave? He could've been given a useless title, like they usually did, and become a part of HER life. Why do women always have to give up their identity to be with the man they love? It's just not fair, or true to life. If it was my fairy tale, I'd stay in the castle – and any man in his right mind would to. So much for a strong female role model. Yes, it's supposed to be a fairy tale, but what happened to the independent Anastasia we had come to know and love?

Other than the useless ending, the film manages to be compelling enough for most part. The songs are good, but nothing special. The entire enterprise is clearly devised to compete with films like BEAUTY AND THE BEAST and THE LITTLE MERMAID. It has the same type of animation, scope and strong female character. Unfortunately, the music and story just aren't up to snuff. The hook is interesting, but isn't taken in a unique or powerfully new direction. The animation is solid, but won't make your eyes pop with wonder. An average film that may be a little scary for small children, but will be too boring for older ones. A nice try that shows they're at least trying to play in the same league. Only time will tell if Fox will ever be able to knock one out of the park.


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