Movie Review: Newsies (1992)

Posted: February 27, 2016 in Drama, Music, Romance
Tags: ,


In 1899, newspapers were delivered by largely destitute young boys.  Newspaper publishers like Joseph Pulitzer (Robert Duvall) and William Randolph Hearst wanted to raise profits on their newspapers, so they increased the distribution price a tenth of a cent per paper, 10 cents per hundred.  This inspired the newsboys to go on strike.  Led by a charismatic street kid named Jack “Cowboy” Kelly, the newsboys go on strike crippling, the Pulitzer and Hearst operations.  Pulitzer tries especially hard to break the strike calling in the head of the New York corrections department Snyder (Kevin Tighe) and dangling plum jobs in front of him in return for the arrest of Jack Kelly.  Does Snyder find Kelly?  Does Pulitzer break the newsboy strike?

Newsies is disappointing on many levels, it starts out as a light hearted musical.  The songs are great and they should be, because they are written by Alan Menken, but then the light musical suddenly lurches into being a dark melodrama, and not coincidentally the songs disappear.  When it’s going through its light musical phase, the story tries to introduce a romantic element between Jack and a sister of one of the Newsies. Sarah, but that doesn’t work.  The story tries to be a historical drama by trotting out people like Pulitzer, Hearst, and even Governor Teddy Roosevelt, but it doesn’t work as a historical drama either.  The ending is oh so predictable and the story that’s too long crawls to a finish.  The inability to settle on one tone throughout ultimately hurts this movie, as it whipsaws its audience through too many emotions. It was a hit on Broadway, so hopefully they re-tooled the story, and got some actors who can do decent New York accents.

Christian Bale is a great actor, he is a great kid actor, don’t believe me?  Watch Empire of the Sun, Bale takes over that movie, and carries it.  Sadly, here he puts on a bad New York accent and wears it like an ill-fitting jacket.  I was deeply disappointed in this performance, I was expecting much better.  He tries to dance too, and he can’t do that very well either.  He can carry a tune, at least better than Russell Crowe, so that’s a saving grace.  Robert Duvall also has accent difficulties as in I didn’t know what accent he was trying to do.  And why the heck is Ann Margaret in this movie playing a lounge singer, this movie was made in the 1990’s, not the 1960’s.  Bill Pullman was playing what he always plays, everyman, nice guy, nothing new there.

The pacing is slow, not many, if any good performances.  The director here is Kenny Ortega, who’s directed tv movies like High School Musical, so maybe my expectations should have been set lower.

Newsies:  Newspaper strike movie that strikes out.


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