Newsies (1992)
December 28, 2016 9:10 AM - Subscribe

Disney's musical based on the New York City newsboy strike of 1899. When young newspaper sellers are exploited beyond reason by their bosses they set out to enact change and are met by the ruthlessness of big business. Starring Christian Bale, Ann-Margret, Bill Pullman, Robert Duvall, David Moscow, Michael Lerner, Max Casella, and dozens more.

In 2002, the AV Club reviewed the DVD release: "A work of astounding commercial miscalculation that has developed a substantial cult following, Newsies combines a subject that often spells box-office poison (the plight of exploited laborers and their efforts to organize) with a genre that hasn't been in vogue for many decades (the psychotically upbeat period musical)." Other reviews were similarly critical.

Someone even Thought Catalog'd Christian Bale's own disavowal of his work in the film, describing what he may have felt was an embarrassing performance of "'Santa Fe' alone, in an alleyway, with a lasso."

But a healthy fandom continues to thrive online.

And someone found a street scene that syncs well with "Uptown Funk."
posted by witchen (17 comments total)
Fuck AV club. This movie is magic. Stupid happy magic.
posted by French Fry at 9:48 AM on December 28, 2016 [9 favorites]

French Fry, I agree with you. Or...I want to agree with you? I loved this movie so hard when it came out, and again loved it ironically-not-ironically as a teenager. But I rewatched it a couple of days ago and it was a completely different experience. Was I the one who changed?
posted by witchen at 12:53 PM on December 28, 2016

Oh it's not good. I didn't say that :)
posted by French Fry at 12:54 PM on December 28, 2016 [10 favorites]

I thought the movie was a little weak, but really like the cast recording of the Broadway version. (Here's a Spotify link, if it works.)
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 2:21 PM on December 28, 2016

I still love Newsies, but I also recognize that its main contribution to film history is providing the low end of the scale for measuring British actors doing regional American accents.
posted by nonasuch at 6:19 PM on December 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

This movie came out when I was 13, a budding political geek, fully-formed theater geek, and admirer of cute boys. So I LOVED IT. I saw it in the theater maybe 2 or 3 times, I listened to the soundtrack non-stop. There are actually some songs that I think really stand up (all of which are, I agree, much better in the Broadway show) - the songs are by Alan Menken!

But it's true, the movie as a whole is absolutely terrible. The accents are embarrassing, the jokes are stupid, the character development is nil (don't even get me started on the bafflingly terrible female characters). It's on Hulu so I recently tried to watch it and I just couldn't.

There is one bit from the first song that I have always loved, and which was taken out of the theater version: when the woman walks through the crowd of newsies looking for her son. I understand why they took it out - it's super-melodramatic and sets up a storyline that never goes anywhere - but having studied more about that time period, I thought it was a great nod to the anguish of what the industrial revolution and the economic inequality of that time did to families.
posted by lunasol at 12:32 AM on December 29, 2016 [5 favorites]

Bonus! #Ham4Ham (the free lottery performances by Hamilton cast members) with Lin-Manuel Miranda and two members of the Hamilton cast (ensemble members playing Samuel Seabury and George Eacker) who had been in the stage version of Newsies, for Alan Menken's birthday.
posted by lunasol at 12:41 AM on December 29, 2016 [6 favorites]

I'm so fascinated by the things I notice now as an adult that passed me by when I was a teenager or a lovestruck eight-year-old (am not embarrassed to admit that Spot Conlon/Christian Bale were major figures in my psychosexual development). Like

1) The fact that the character "Racetrack" has an actual problem and Weisel & co. enable a fourteen-year-old with a gambling addiction.
2) What have Medda and Jack done with each other? How old even is she? Why is she in this movie at all?
3) The fact that Disney made a musical for kids about labor organizing! how weird and cool is that!
4) Just how heavy it is on testosterone. Like jfc, almost every scene is just a sea of adolescent boys wearing dingy brown clothes. I'm weirded out by my own inability to notice that as a younger kid, worried that my lil brain was running a loop of "boys boys boys boys!" and nothing else.
5) The New York House of Refuge was a real place! Someone, somewhere, did a nominal amount of research to make that part legit.
6) As noted by lunasol, the plausibility of that mother and her son being split up in all the hubbub of the industrial revolution/gilded age wealth gaps. I work as an archivist with a lot of materials from New York around 1880-1930, and the family/homelife details (especially this mother) ring pretty true for how things were going and how easy it was to become separated from your loved ones and try to scrape by anyhow. It has more of a foot in reality than I'd thought.

My little sister, around kindergarten age, was watching it with me once and she asked why everyone is singing and dancing all the time, even when they're sad. I told her that people just sang and danced like that all the time in the old days. She believed me! Maybe I believed it myself, a little. Like I said, I missed a lot during my first hundred viewings.

I'd be interested to see the stage version--I do think the songs are still good, and they were all super fun to sing along to. Especially the King of New York, which in middle school my best friend sang as "I'm droppin' my pants and going deluxe," causing giggles for life.
posted by witchen at 9:23 AM on December 29, 2016 [5 favorites]

I'd be interested to see the stage version--I do think the songs are still good, and they were all super fun to sing along to. Especially the King of New York, which in middle school my best friend sang as "I'm droppin' my pants and going deluxe," causing giggles for life.

For anyone else (like me) who missed the stage production, they filmed a performance with the original Broadway cast back in September which will be in movie theaters nationwide on Feb 16, 18, & 22: tickets available here.
posted by oh yeah! at 9:39 AM on December 29, 2016 [4 favorites]

(I just posted a proposed IRL for an NYC Newsies screening, if anyone's interested in making a meetup out of it)
posted by oh yeah! at 11:56 AM on December 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

They made some inexplicable changes to the stage version, but the touring production I saw was great, and I'm always in favor of expanded employment for talented young dancing men!
posted by ChuraChura at 7:17 PM on December 29, 2016

I have watched the movie recently and I still think it's great! It did something very ambitious, and it's a really good story that wouldn't really be told nowadays. I felt that the Broadway version sanitized the whole thing, and left a really disgusting corporate pro-capitalism taste in my mouth where the spunky pro-labor organizing 101 movie musical used to be (although, the singing and dancing were phenomenal).
posted by likeatoaster at 8:33 PM on December 29, 2016 [3 favorites]

That's really too bad that they changed the pro-labor organizing aspect. That's really the best thing about the movie (along with some of the songs) - it is really, unapologetically, pro-union and actually pretty anticapitalist for a movie made by Disney.
posted by lunasol at 1:28 PM on December 30, 2016

I saw it for the first time last week. It was fun, though it could have used a little trimming.
posted by drezdn at 4:38 AM on December 31, 2016

I saw this when I was a wee, sma' totally vincible summer, and I still have the soundtrack for this movie on my iPhone. I even have songs from it in my recently played list.

I agree with French Fry - it's MAGIC.

(And I still remember the eyes on that kid from Brooklyn...)
posted by invincible summer at 4:04 PM on January 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

It's my 6-year-old's favorite movie. He loves all the dancing. About once a week he ties a red bandana around his neck and insists on being referred to as Jack Kelly. It's pretty damned adorable.

The movie is definitely flawed, and I don't personally find it that great, but I am glad it exists.
posted by Doleful Creature at 9:47 PM on January 5, 2017 [3 favorites]

That's really too bad that they changed the pro-labor organizing aspect.

Wait how do you even make Newsies without the labor organizing aspect?
posted by corb at 5:48 PM on January 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

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