Retro Review: Newsies (1992)

The phrase Kapaya! comes to mind when I see these kids jumping

“The movie with the fabulous dancing?” “Ha, yeah.” “Oh, no. Sorry, we don’t have it.” And that, ladies and gentlemen, was the time I was forced to buy Newsies—out of desperation. I had heard of the film numerous times and knew Christian Bale was in it; it still wasn’t enough to win me over. But when I found out that baby-faced Bale would be singing, dancing and reportedly disliking this flick the most out of his career, I thought, “aw, hell yeah!”

Directed by Kenny Ortega, Newsies revolves around homeless newsboy, Jack “Cowboy” Kelly (Christian Bale), dreaming of leaving his banal life in New York City and head out to Santa Fe, New Mexico, in hopes of experiencing a different lifestyle, environment, and becoming a cowboy. As the film begins, Jack befriends two newcomers to the trade, brothers David (David Moscow) and Les Jacobs (Luke Edwards). But their optimism can only live for so long before publisher, Joseph Pulitzer, (Robert Duvall) decides to raise the prices of the newspaper, making it unrealistic for the newsies to attain any profit. The solution to this? Calling forth a strike! With journalist, Bryan Denton, (Bill Pullman) on their side, the newsies brace themselves for a power struggle.

Let’s begin with a terse set of points, shall we? Positive: Cute, funny boy moments. The humor is similar to that of The Little Rascals, The Goonies, The Sandlot, Dennis the Menace, etc. It’s innocent, adorable, and resonates with you—especially in contrast to many of today’s highly sexualized films. And those New York accents, d’awwww!

“Jack Kelly? Yeah, he was here, but he put an egg in his shoe and beat it.”

Hard-knock life much?

Positive number two: This musical is more fun than serious. Originally intended to be a drama, one could only imagine how different the final product would have been had Kenny Oretga, (the dude that created High School Musical) not hopped on board.

Positive number three: catchy songs and as the above librarian said, “fabulous dancing.” It’s hard not to smile when watching this flick. The inner kid really oozes out of you.

Positive number four: Baby-faced Bale. Before he became the menacing dark knight vigilante, Bale was a cute little dork that sold newspapers…that sang and danced badly at times. And when I say “badly” it was a combination of the traditional sense of the word ‘bad’ and not being to help but loving/grinning at it.

“There’s a lot of people out there, and they ain’t just gonna go away. They got voices now and they’re goin’ to be listened to. Putting them in jail is not going to stop them. That’s the power of the press, Joe. So thanks for teaching me about it.”

Positive number five: getting away with adult jokes and cursing. Ah the MPAA, today with

Boys just wanna have fun

its suffocating craze on ‘what’s appropriate for children.’ Back then, they were a bit more loose and fun, so it’s nice to see what a different time period deemed to be ‘appropriate.’

Neutral point number one: Good character and bad character development. An example of this would be David. At the beginning, the newbie newsie won’t shut up and is crazy annoying and whiny. Later on, he finds his voice and improves. In contrast to this: Jack. Jack improves all right…before falling on his face. (Spoiler-free, sorry!)

“Your honor, I object.” “On what grounds?” “On the grounds of Brooklyn.”

Neutral point number two: the acting. Christian bale was great as always. But for some of the other actors, they could’ve improved. Some were either mediocre or pretty sappy. At times, I wasn’t sure if they were sarcastic or serious at times.

Neutral point number three: the singing. Now, don’t watch this film with the expectations of listening to professional opera singers. The singing is meant to be fun, (and I guess realistic considering they’re average teenage boys.) But having said that, were there bad singers? Yes, but in a fun way 😀

“For a dreamer, night’s the only time of day.”

Negative number one: the dragging plot. At the beginning, the plot tends to drag for a while. And because of this, the audience is at a loss as to where we’re going with this movie. It floats around for a bit before settling on an actual storyline.

Them moves 😉

Negative number two: the messy plot (subplots). The overall plot at times was a bit messy due to its various subplots. Although the subplots were connected later, I felt as if it made the movie feel a bit scattered. It had me thinking it was a different movie. Example: With this scene, the film could be a romance flick. Furthermore, if one were to incorporate subplots into a film, they should at least make them interesting. But in Newsies, the subplots were clichéd and boring.

“My father taught us not to lie.” “Well, mine told me not to starve; so we both have an education.”

Negative number three: the messy plot (overall). In addition to the subplots that contributed to the messy scenario, the overall plot was a bit disordered. Rather than solving the actual problem, the protagonists just talk about what they should do and sing about it. For the strike, they just wait around at times than actually going out and doing it, or they’ll randomly strike before retreating once more. And the cycle repeats itself until we finally get to the climax. Because of this, the story doesn’t really progress at times; It becomes repetitive. As a result, the storyline feels scattered. The story tends to drift in and out of an actual plotline before jumping right back in.

“Where’s my picture? Where does it mention me?” “Would ya quit thinkin’ about yourself?”

Baby-faced Bale

Negative number four: Cliché love interest that’s pretty useless. *cough* Sarah *cough* Ortega could’ve made her more essential to the plot. All she does is giggle and smile like an idiot in an attempt to flirt with Jack whenever he’s around. Like bruh, really? >.< And best of all, she does during serious times 😀 Oh wait, I forgot, she also plays the cliché damsel in distress at a later point of the film (semi-spoiler?) Furthermore, it is unrealistic of Ortega to have Sarah become the pinnacle of Jack’s life to the extent of her influencing his later actions (which are really out of character, by the way) It might’ve worked had there been more chemistry, but it was relatively nonexistent, which intensifies Ortega’s bad decision. To many of the Newsies community, they dub Sarah as the destroyer of —–(no spoilers 😉 No disrespect to Elle Keats (the actress that plays Sarah), but Sarah’s an idiot.

Negative number five: Clichés. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with clichés. However, in Newsies, there are two clichés that really bothered me. The first was the cliché poor boy story. I think we get that being poor sucks and that there’s more than meets the eye. The second cliché that really bothered me was the ending. All I can say is that due to Disney’s idea of ‘happy endings’ it ruined the ending for me, to be honest. It was both predictable and out of character.

Sarah sucks.

“Now is the time to seize the day.”

Newsies is catchy, fun, and I could see why it has a cult following. Having said that, I think those who watch it when they’re kids can fully appreciate it; it’d be nostalgic. For me, this was my first time watching it. And because of that, I’m sure that I would’ve enjoyed it a whole lot more if I had seen it as a child. My advice to those who watch it would not expect an Oscar-worthy film because it’s obviously not that. Keep your expectations realistic, as this is a classic ‘kids’ movie.’ Overall, I liked Newsies. I thought it was an ok film—a fun cliché we can appreciate. A particular message I enjoyed? Never underestimate the power of press and media.

Running Time: 2 hours

Rating: PG

Final Verdict: B-

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