The Scoop: 1992 PG, directed by Kenny Ortega and starring Christian Bale, Robert Duvall, and David Moscow
Tagline: A thousand voices, a single dream.
Summary Capsule: Newspaper boys sing and dance their way past greedy media moguls and strike-busting thugs.
Sue’s Rating: Extra! Extra! Evil incarnate! Read all about it!
Sue’s Review: Let me take a moment to tell you about my daughter, Spawn of Mutant 2. She’s cute, and sweet, polite and charmingly shy. She’s at that magical age where child begins the transformation into young woman, but the inevitable “teen” attitude hasn’t kicked in yet. If you’re down in the dumps, she’ll make you a handwritten card with a personal and genuine sentiment of caring. She’s conscientious with her schoolwork, practices her flute at least an hour every day, and she’s so worried about becoming addicted to television and/or video games, that she voluntarily limits the number of hours she spends indulging in them. Yesterday I caught her grounding herself because over Christmas vacation, she had not achieved anything creative and/or mind enhancing. (No, she’s not adopted. I’d have asked me that too.) She is genuinely a nice person in every way. I’m proud of SoM2. I love her fiercely.
Now that’s all very well and good, but generally speaking I’m not one to brag or boast. The reason I’ve told you so much about my second born is merely to give you a bit of necessary context.
Because about an hour into Newsies, my darling, sweet-natured daughter, brandished a fist at the television set and screamed, “WILL YOU PEOPLE SHUT UP?!!!!! SHUT UP! SHUT!!!! UP!!!!!!!!! ARRRRRRRRRGGGGHHH!!!! MAKE THEM STOP!!!!!”
I think it makes quite a statement that of all the movies we’ve ever watched as a family, Newsies has the distinction of being the only one to send poor SoM2 completely off the deep end. She loved Lilo and Stitch (you should hear her Pudge the fish monologue), was terrorized by the Terminator and can quote most of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace verbatim (no, I don’t know why either), but it took Newsies to unleash the beast within.
Newsies has two fundamental problems. The first is that the plot is basically as boring and tedious as churning butter. The second is that it’s a musical in the worst possible sense of the word. As I understand it, the actual music part of musicals should advance and enhance the plot. In Newsies, it was used more like a rubber mallet applied briskly and remorselessly against the unfortunate viewer’s forehead. I needed a Tylenol, that’s a fact.
I’m sure the organization of workers’ unions and the outcry against child labor were both very significant milestones in our history. In my younger days, I was actually a Teamster, ’tis true. I mean no disrespect for those brave souls who stood up for themselves in the face of big money and strike-busting hooligans. It’s just that when I read about this stuff back in history class, I never once envisioned bedraggled paperboys doing high kicks and pelvic gyrations as they warbled about Pulitzer and Hearst price gouging the middle man. I’ll give credit where due though – those boys sure could dance up a storm.
As far as I can tell, there were only two enjoyable facets to the movie. And I’m using the word “enjoyable” basically as a synonym for “excruciating”. First was watching the then-18 year old Christian Bale dancing and singing (in his own voice – though with a New York accent) about running off to Santa Fe and getting himself a real family. I still haven’t decided whether to admire his performance or be mortally embarrassed for him.
The second was The Horse.
The non-equine fixated probably wouldn’t even have noticed The Horse, but once I did, I couldn’t stop myself from obsessing over him. He was a nice moving chestnut with a white blaze and white stockings – and he pulled virtually every vehicle in the movie, from drab delivery cart to mogul’s grand carriage. He was in the background, in the foreground, tracking left, tracking right, he was EVERYWHERE! Talk about budget constraints. Theoretically you could make a drinking game out of The Horse sightings, but alcohol poisoning would be a foregone conclusion, so I can’t advocate it. It’s not even as if he were the only horse in the film. I counted at least three others, but in almost every outdoor scene, inevitably, there was The Horse.
Basically what Newsies boiled down to was a whopping 121 minute, torturous mobius loop of songs that sounded identical, dances that looked identical, and horses that were identical. I cannot stress this enough. This movie is chock full of interminable and oxymoronic loathesomeness. But you can hum along to it.
As I tucked dear SoM2 into bed that night, she – the soft-hearted anthropomorphically inclined poster child and sympathetic lover of all things ugly, useless and discarded – gave a little sigh and ventured softly, “Maybe it wasn’t really THAT bad.”
“Yes sweetie,” I whispered tenderly back. “It really was.”
- The Horse.
- Holy Sound Of Music, Batman! Singing Nuns!
- Even Bill Pullman sings in this thing.
- Notice Doogie Howser’s old sidekick in there?
- At the end, Jack Kelly appears in his old clothes, after he’d swapped them out for fancy new ones. What, a clean shirt is too bougouise?
- I’m not sure kids that age should be doing pelvic thrusts when they dance. It’s too Michael Jackson. That can’t be good.
- Pulitzer is played by Robert “What was I thinking?!” Duvall.
- Jack Kelly’s fixation on Santa Fe is based on the front cover of a comic book.
- How exactly did uneducated kids figure out how to use a printing press overnight?
- The newsies strike did actually happen in 1899, though presumably without the dancing. (And presumably without Joseph Pulitzer, since he was blind and living on his yacht.) Several of the characters were real people involved in the strike, including Racetrack Harris, Spot Conlin and Kid Blink. Jack Kelly did not exist, but his character may have been based on the real Kid Blink who was accused of being bribed by Pulitzer’s people to end the strike.
- At the time it was released, this was one of the lowest grossing live action movies in Walt Disney studio history. I can’t imagine why.
- Christian Bale is known as a master of accents. He uses a different one in each movie. Considering he’s a native of Wales, his New Yawk twang was actually very good.
- Disney’s plague on parents strikes again: One verified dead mother, one verified father in prison. Heck, just about all the newsies are orphans.
Jack Kelly: If we go on strike, then we’re a union. Right?
David: No. We’re just a bunch of angry kids with no money.
Jack (selling papers): Extry, extry, read all about it! Ellis Island in flames!
David: Hey, where’s that story?
Jack: Page nine. Thousands Flee in Panic!
David (reading paper): “Trash Fire Next To Immigration Building Terrifies Seagulls”?
Jack: Terrified Flight from Inferno!
Jack: I’m just not used to havin’ whether I stay or whether I go matter to anybody. Not that it should matter to you. I’m just sayin’… um… well, does it? Matter?
Racetrack: Look at this, “Baby Born with Two Heads.” Must be from Brooklyn.
Racetrack: You know that hot tip I told you about?
Jack Kelly: Yeah.
Racetrack: Nobody told the horse.
Racetrack: (‘negotiating’ bail): We ain’t got five bucks! We don’t even got five cents! Your Honor, how ’bout I roll ya for it, double or nuttin’?
Headline from “The World”: Trolley Strike Drags On For Third Week
Competing Headline from the New York Journal: Nude Corpse On Rails Not Connected To Trolley Strike.
David: My father taught us not to lie!
Jack: Well my father taught me not to starve, so we both got an education.
Jack: It ain’t lyin’. It’s just improving the truth a little.
Mr. Jacobs: Esther, maybe David’s friend would like to join us for dinner. Why don’t you add a little more water to the soup?
Sarah: So what makes a headline good?
Jack: Oh you know, uhm, catchy words like uh… Maniac or corpse. Or love nest. Or nude. Oh, excuse me. Maybe I’m talking too much.
If you liked this movie, try these:
- Oliver and Company