Newsies [1992]

Except for feature-length animation, the musical has gone the way of the dinosaur. The Walt Disney company took a stab at reviving the live-action musical in 1992 with Newsies, a throwback picture with a curious subject. In 1899, the pint-sized newsboys delivering the New York papers go on strike against the unfair practices of news magnates Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst. The production is heavy on kiddie humor, although Christian Bale (the child star of Spielberg's Empire of the Sun) is charismatic as one of the older leaders of the revolt. The adult stars don't fare as well, with Robert Duvall doddering around as Pulitzer and Ann-Margret and Bill Pullman doing decorative duty. The film was not well received when first released, but hindsight reveals its charm (and allowed the young target audience to catch up with the picture on video). The first-time director is Kenny Ortega, the choreographer of Dirty Dancing, who brings plenty of energy to the action. --Robert Horton

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