Anastasia

Anastasia

***

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Who are those grown-ups weeping in the back row? Ignore them. They're historians.

Anastasia is the daughter of the last tzar of Russia, the one who was bumped off in a cellar with his entire (oops!) family. You won't learn about that here. Rasputin's the baddie, the mad monk who makes a pact with evil forces to destroy the Romanov's FOREVER. (Actually, Rasputin's power base stemmed directly from royal patronage. Far from being an enemy of the Romanovs, he saw them as his benefactors. No matter...!).

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During the chaos of what must have been the revolution, Anastasia escapes to the station with her gran, who boards the last train to Paris. The girl doesn't make it. In the crush their outstretched hands don't quite meet as the train steams away (sob!) without her. She spends the following years in an orphanage, calling herself Anya and speaking high school Californian (thanks Meg Ryan).

Meanwhile, in St Petersburg (whatever happened to Stalingrad?), an enterprising young man with capitalistic views, called Dimitri (John Cusack on vocals), has thought up a wizard wheeze. Granny Rom in Gay Paree is offering a fat reward for info about the whereabouts of her long lost granddaughter. Dimitri, with his stereopodge peasant-a-like pal, Vladi (Kelsey Grammer doing the accent), plans on finding a girl, training her up and palming her off as the genuine article.

When Anya is booted out of the orphanage, she looks like a million roubles. She adopts a cutesy pup, called Pouka or Kooka or something, and heads for the city, where she meets Dimitri and the rest is... a series of corny ballads, plus romantic journey to grey-haired gran, who, not suprisingly, is so pissed off interviewing fake Anastasias, she won't look at another. Meanwhile - and here's the best part - Rasputin (Christopher Lloyd going so far over the top, he's certifiable) is on the case. By then, he's dead, but who cares? From purgatory, and with little help from comic siderodent Bartok, a New York Jewish bat, he conjures up fiendish schemes to stop Anastasia. These give the movie an anarchic spark, which offsets the gauche 'n' go love interest and allows the creative dept an opportunity to spread its imaginative wings.

As the first full length animated feature since All Dogs Go To Heaven (another Bluth/Goldman prod) that doesn't have Walt's watermark, it looks good, has a funnier villain than Hercules and cringe-friendly juve leads. Unlike Dogs, which took more risks, its formula is pure Disney. Why so many duff songs? When will New Wave animators forget The Lion King and do what Toy Story did and take a leap into the unknown? Not yet, it seems.

Reviewed on: 09 Jul 2007
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Animation about the trials and tribulations of the orphaned daughter of the last Russian tsar.
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Director: Don Bluth, Gary Goldman

Writer: Susan Gauthier, Bruce Graham, Bob Tzudiker, Noni White, Eric Tuchman

Starring: Meg Ryan, John Cusack, Kelsey Grammer, Christopher Lloyd, Hank Azaria, Bernadette Peters, Kirsten Dunst, Angela Lansbury, Rick Jones, Andrea Martin, Glenn Walker Harris Jr

Year: 1997

Runtime: 94 minutes

BBFC: U - Universal

Country: USA

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If you like this, try:

Rasputin: The Mad Monk