Russian history- sort of
Gunner | Bethlehem,Georgia | 02/04/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
Anastasia is an animated movie about the Russian Romanov family and what happened to them.
It is sort of like a Cinderella story with a Russian history twist.
Highly recommended for families with young children that want to start teaching them something about European history or just want to enjoy a family oriented movie.
Just do not expect historical accuracy in a cartoon musical
Lawrance M. Bernabo | The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota | 01/17/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
""Anastasia" is a animated musical that works despite some serious problems fundamental to the story for anybody who knows anything about Russian history. The legend of Anastasia has in roots in a historical truth: that when the Communists executed the Romanovs and gunned them down, the young Grand Duchess was not shot; she fainted. When it was discovered she was still alive she was clubbed and bayoneted to death. But the "truth" remains, she was not shot dead with the rest of her family. In this version that issued is rendered moot because the young Anastasia never joins her parents as they fled St. Petersburg. However, the greatest historical liberty is the idea that the Russian Revolution was the result of a curse the mad monk Gregorei Rasputin laid on the Romanovs. Forget Lenin and the Communists overthrowing the Czar; it was a crazy monk and his friend, an albino bat named Bartok. However, "Anastasia" has several things working in its favor to counter-attack this nonsense. First, there is the haunting "Once Upon a December," which carries the mood of the story perfectly and comes into play at several key moments in the film. The rest of the music is above average and avoids cuteness for the most part (the bad guys get the fun song with "In the Dark of the Night"), but "Once Upon a December" is musically the cornerstone of the whole film. Second, there is the wonderful vocal work by Kelsey Grammer and Angela Landsbury as the supporting characters Vladimir and the Dowager Empress Marie; they are the pair who provide the film with its heart while Anna and Dmitri wait for their brains to catch up with their hearts. Third, in true giant cartoon movie style, the film reduces everything to the fundamental desire to go home and be part of a family. Ultimately, the backbone of the story is more the 1956 Ingrid Bergman film version of the "Anastasia" story than history: a con artist wants to earn the reward for finding the lost heiress to the Russian thrown and turns an amnesia victim into Anastasia only to discover that she is the real thing and that he is in love with her. Then basically they throw in the standard evil person trying to keep the princess and her boyfriend apart (think Disney's "Sleeping Beauty" except instead of an evil queen it is a mad monk and instead of a giant dragon there is a small albino bat and the princess is really a Grand Duchess and the prince is now a former servant boy, but other than that they are remarkably the same). Besides, kids like this film and they should be allowed to do so for a few years before they discover they can not learn history from movies (and should never let watching a movie substitute for reading an assigned book)."
A Don Bluth Classic
K. Ramsdell | S. Carolina | 03/12/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Artistically this is one of the finest animated feature films produced by Don Bluth. Though best known for his work in the "American Tail" movies, he is also responsible for "The Secret of NIMH." This latest production shows what can be done when traditional hand-drawn animation is combined with computer technology. The result is superb. Outstanding animation matched with quality music and a reasonable plot merge to form an entertaining movie for children and adults alike. Sit back, grab some popcorn, and enjoy!For the animation lovers out there, watch for the details in the natural movements of the various characters.As for all the comparisons with Disney animation, I only ask why? The quality of Disney films varies greatly from film to film. Bluth has been far more consistent. Finally, the criticisms that this film isn't historically accurate are moot. Animated films rarely concern themselves with accuracy. Disney is one of the worst offenders. Disney's insistance on a happy ending comletely changed the story of "The Little Mermaid" and "Pocahontas" but they're still entertaining movies."
The Best Don Bluth Movie I've Seen
J. Edkin | South Orange, NJ | 12/29/2001
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Don Bluth is an incredibly gifted artist. His character designs and animation can be breathtaking. Unfortunately, he and frequent collaborator Gary Goldman can't tell a cohesive story to save their lives. Of all of his films I've seen, "Anastasia" is by far their best. Whether this is because of solid source material (although that didn't stop "The Secret of NIMH" from falling to pieces story-wise) or the incredible score by Lynn Aherns and Stephen Flaherty, "Anastasia" remains in my estimation Bluth and Goldman's most watchable movie.Based loosely on a play by Marcelle Maurette and Guy Bolton. As well as the 1956 film adaptation of the play by Arthur Laurents, the story turns the mystery of the disappearance of Anastasia, daughter of Czar Nicholas, following the murder of the Russian royal family, into a fairy tale. You have to ignore everything you know about history in order to accept the execution of the film--it plays loose with the Communist revolution and with Rasputin.Dimitri (voiced with great charm by John Cusack, sung by John Dokuchitz) is a con artist living in St. Petersburg. Along with his friend Vladimir (the entertaining Kelsey Grammer), he is searching for a young girl who can play the role of the missing Romanoff heir in order to claim a reward from the dowager empress who has escaped to Paris. He meets Anya (voiced with much character by Meg Ryan, sung by the incredible Liz Callaway) and immediately sees in her the girl to carry out his plans. As he and Vladimir work with Anya to perfect her ruse, he comes to realize that she is the true Anastasia.Then we add the elements that make it a Don Bluth movie--Anya has a cute dog and there is a magical villain in the (dead) body of Rasputin (played gleefully over the top by Christopher Lloyd and sung by Jim Cummings). And, of course, Rasputin has his cute animal sidekick in the form of an albino bat, Bartok (the always effective Hank Azaria). Rasputin wants revenge on the Romanoffs for his undead state and sets off to kill the princess. It should also be noted that Bernadette Peters and Angele Lansbury round out the voice cast in entertaining performances.Okay, if you can put aside your feelings of misgivings regarding the animal sidekicks and revisionist history, there is much that is entertaining in this film. The score by Broadway veterans Aherns and Flaherty is probably one of the best ever composed for an animated movie. The script does provide action, adventure, romance, and comedy. It's probably the most human script directed by Bluth and Goldman. There is some spectacular animation, the runaway train scene stands out as truly effective.There are drawbacks. It is trying too hard to out-Disney Disney, from the opening number to the very structure of the story. The computer animation isn't always well integrated. The music box never looks like it exists in the same reality as the animated characters and the afore-mentioned train sequence is obviously not cell animation. But these drawback are relatively minor compared to the overblown climax of the movie. Still, flaws aside, it does entertain. I have watched it several times and have definitely gotten my money's worth of this DVD.The DVD ovvers you the option of fullscreen and letterbox presentation, a short featurette about the making of the movie, and a pair of sing-along sequences.All in all, I recommend this movie to people who enjoy animated musicals. If you like this, you may also like Disney's "Beauty and the Beast" and "Hunchback of Notre Dame", "My Neighbor Totoro", Frank Oz's musical version of "Little Shop of Horrors", "The Iron Giant", "James and the Giant Peach", and "The Nightmare before Christmas".(C)2001 Joe Edkin"