Movie Magazine International


USA - 1997

Movie Review By Andrea Chase

Don Bluth and Gary Goldman knew what they were up against when they decided to make "Anastasia" for Fox. They'd both worked for Disney. So every moment of "Anastasia" is conceived, drawn and animated as though it were the one that would make or break the entire film. The result is dazzling animation so sophisticated that it makes the previous state of the art look like precocious etch-a-sketch doodling.

The fall of the Romanovs, and the fate of the real Anastasia, is the stuff of modern myth. This version morphs it into a more traditional fairy tale, with a mad monk, Rasputin, instead of an evil witch. No politics here of downtrodden masses or out-of-touch rulers. No firing squad either. Instead, Rasputin is a miffed sorcerer who levels a curse that dispatches the Romanovs in less time than it takes to stuff a blini. Anastasia is lost in the ensuing confusion.

Years later as amnesiac Anya, with the crinkly voice of Meg Ryan, she's become a tough cookie determined to find out who she really is and unaware of the curse dogging her. Fate and fairy-tales being what they are, she meets up with the one person who can help her on both counts, only he's a con man out for a share of the Romanov's rubles. O, and he's handsome. Duh.

The film doesn't rest on its looks. The story's engrossing with the right mix of sentiment and slapstick. The characters are fully fleshed out. Or should I say inked-out? Even Rasputin's sidekick, the albino bat Bartok, is written as a Jiminy Cricket-type with low self-esteem making him a cut above the generic cartoon henchman. Rasputin, may be a sketchier character, but with more removable parts than Mr. Potato Head, and truly inventive black magic antics, who cares? As for playing fast and loose with history, well, do we really turn to a film that features a talking bat for historical accuracy? I think not.

The music's good with a gently melancholy quality. It's a nice counterpoint to the prickly-sweet love story. And with its harrowing adventures, evil hobgoblins, and Josephine Baker in her banana skirt, "Anastasia" has the one thing that real history couldn't have - a happy ending.

© 1997 Andrea Chase Air Date: 11/19/97

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