Disney's unsuccessful attempt a few years back to ressurect the live-action musical genre was a movie called Newsies, about the boys who sold newspapers in turn-of-the-century New York. After getting shafted by Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst, they went on strike.

Newsies is really underrated, in my considered opinion. Okay, so you won't find deep characterization and new insight into the human condition there, but you will find a Dickensian musical romp with very catchy tunes and mind-blowing choreography. Christian Bale is pretty good in it, too, and I recommend this film. Well, if you like musicals, I recommend it. Otherwise, don't bother.

"Okay, you guys, you gotta be ambastards and go tell the others that we’re on strike."
Jack Kelly

Newsies (1992)
Director: Kenny Ortega
Screenplay: Bob Tzudiker and Noni White
Music: Alan Menken
Lyrics: Jack Feldman
Genre: Family / Musical

It’s morning at a New York shelter for newsboys. Bodies are sprawled everywhere from bunk beds to the lap of a statue outside. Morning has broken and it’s time to get to work. Wake up! Wake up! Time to carry the banner for a penny a pape! The boys crawl from their sleeping places and begin to ready themselves for the day…with a song.

Newsies is a movie musical about the newsboys strike of 1899. It stars dozens of good-looking dancing and singing boys. That in and of itself is a good enough reason for every girl to love this movie. But why stop there…there’s so much more!

The plot centers around Jack and David. Jack is a street rat of sorts, selling papers for Pulitzer’s The World and living at the newsboys shelter. Contrastingly, David is an educated boy who recently quit school to sell papers. He is the sole supporter of his family because his father was injured on the job and let go. Jack meets David and his little brother Les while buying a day’s worth of papers to sell and they strike up a partnership. Les’ cute mug and Oliver!-like schtick (Buy me last pape, mister? *cough, cough*) proves to be an excellent front. But before the new partnership can get off the ground, the three get chased around town by Warden Snyder until they finally take refuge in Medda Larkson’s theater.

Above the streets, in the posh New York offices, the newspaper moguls get greedy and decide to increase the profit margin. Rather than charge the people of New York more for buying the paper, they choose to jack up the price for newsboys selling the papers. Like the other child laborers of the time, the boys were already barely making ends meet. Inspired by the strike led by the trolley workers in New York at the time, Jack and David’s friends decide to strike until Pulitzer puts the price back where it was.

The boys work to rally the participation of every newsboy in New York, partially with help from reporter Bryan Denton who begins covering the strike in his paper, The Sun. All the while, Jack is avoiding Warden Snyder, who wants to take him back to the refuge. Jack rode out of the jail for kids beneath the carriage of Teddy Roosevelt, then governor of New York, which is part of the reason for his fame among the newsies. Despite the growing number of striking newsboys, the newspaper men refuge to budge as both sides dig in their heels despite any and all losses.

Newsies has it all...comedy, friendship, betrayal, fights, music, dancing, romance, Christian Bale singing *swoon*, Bill Pullman singing, and of course, lots of cute boys. While it's obviously a favorite among girls, my boyfriend watched it with me when I bought the DVD and he enjoyed it. Anyone interested in theater or music would. The ensemble vocals are strong, the soundtrack good. The choreography of both the dance numbers and the fights are excellent, as is the execution. The cast trained in dancing and martial arts for ten weeks in preparation for filming. BONUS: The DVD edition has a special hosted by some of the newsies explaining what it was like making the movie.

Rent this, baby! It's good for a fun evening.

Cast (abridged list, from www.imdb.com):
Christian Bale – Jack Kelly/Francis Sullivan
David Moscow – David Jacobs
Luke Edwards – Les Jacobs
Max Casella – Racetrack Higgins
Marty Belafsky – Crutchy
Arvie Lowe, Jr. – Boots
Aaron Lohr – Mush
Trey Parker, II – Kid Blink
Gabriel Damon – Spot Conlon
Dee Caspary – Snitch
Joseph Conrad, II – Jake
Dominic Maldonado – Itey
Matthew Fields – Snipeshooter
Mark David – Specs
Ivan Dudynsky – Dutchy
Bill Pullman – Bryan Denton
Ann-Margret – Medda Larkson
Robert Duvall – Joseph Pulizer
Ele Keats – Sarah Jacobs
Kevin Tighe – Warden Snyder
Shon Greenblatt – Oscar Delancey
David Sheinkopf – Morris Delancy

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