Anastasia is one of those old gems that whenever you mention it to people they either really love it or haven’t seen it. It tells the story of Anna, an orphan with a forgotten past who goes out to try and find out her real identity. As two con men try to convince her that she is the lost Russian princess Anastasia, she begins to prove she just may actually be the lost royal.
This review is exceptionally timely, since the Broadway adaptation will hit New York City on March 23rd. The main stage musical adaptation is long overdue, as the film version has all the workings of a Broadway hit Beautiful and enchanting musical numbers, a scrappy and lovable heroine, the iconic voice of Angela Lansbury, and an engaging and threatening villain with an adorable sidekick (Bartok the Magnificent) make this film prime material for adaptation and expansion. Side note: I’ve heard the new numbers and listened to the new cast and I highly encourage getting tickets as soon as you can.
Anyway, Anastasia is one of my favorite non-Disney animated classics, and easily contains the best soundtrack from a non-Disney film. Don Bluth penned and directed a lot of classics, but went wholly unappreciated. Anastasia is the highest grossing of his works and his filmography includes An American Tail, The Land Before Time (the first one!), and all All Dogs go to Heaven.
I can understand why this film is his best. It boasts an incredible all-star cast including John Cusack, Meg Ryan, Angela Lansbury (the musical goddess), Christopher Lloyd, Hank Azaria (the voiceover god), Bernadette Peters, Liz Callaway, and Kelsey Grammar. It looks insanely beautiful. The “Once Upon a December” scene alone is enchanting enough to sell the whole movie. Is it weird that only two characters have Russian accents…yeah. But that’s not the only historically inaccuracy so I guess we can just call this a loose adaptation. I’m sure Rasputin didn’t have a talking bat sidekick either, so I mean there’s that.
In a time where 2D animation was on it’s way out, it proves there are some things that traditional animation still does best. Sceneries look like beautiful paintings, even imitating famous artists like Monet. People don’t look as good as modern Disney/Pixar films, but it has this beautiful effect on sceneries and movement that computer generated scenes just can’t do. It’s like watching moving paintings and it is breathtaking.
So why is this film a part of Badass Women’s Week? Isn’t it just another princess movie? Nope. Not at all. Anastasia has agency and holds her own while traveling with her male companions. She’s feisty, confident, and even saves Dmitri more than a few times. She genuinely is trying to find herself, and isn’t looking for a boy to save her. She’s relatable, funny, and holds her own throughout the film. She is the focus and always commands whatever scene she is in. She is the princess we always needed. There is romance, but it isn’t the main focus at all. It is a girl trying to find her family and reconnect with her past while running from the man who killed her family. She defeats her own villains of her past and finds happiness on her terms, no one else’s. She finds love and happiness, but that’s only after she accomplishes her main goal, to reconnect with her own identity.
It’s beautiful, heart wrenching, and looks and sounds incredible. It is a movie that must be restored to the animated canon of brilliant films. I am so happy it is getting the recognition it deserves as Broadway breathes new life into this beloved tale.
Amy’s Recommendation: 10/10