1997, Movie, G, 92 mins


If you thought Disney's HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME was weird, how about an animated kiddie musical based on the legend of Anastasia? That the 6-year-old Russian grand duchess actually survived the bloody 1918 massacre of her father, Tsar Nicholas, and the rest of the Romanov family at the hands of Bolshevik revolutionaries has been one of this century's more enduring rumors. All things considered, it's probably for the best that veteran animator Don Bluth and company have little use for history, except to provide this opulently drawn fairy tale with its factually blurry premise. It seems it wasn't any silly revolution that took down Tsarist Russia, but an evil curse cast by the vengeful Rasputin (voiced by Christopher Lloyd). According to the film, "Anya" (Meg Ryan) escaped the ensuing carnage and grew up an amnesiac in a wretched Soviet orphanage. When she leaves as a teenager, Anya feels strangely compelled to visit Paris -- now the home of her grandmother, the Dowager Empress (Angela Lansbury) -- but must first obtain a bogus exit visa from con men Dmitri (John Cusack) and Vladimir (Kelsey Grammer), who just happen to be conspiring to present a false Anastasia to the rich and, they hope, deeply grateful empress. They talk Anya into playing the part -- after all, she could be the young duchess -- but then Rasputin, who has been quite literally rotting in limbo, hears of her existence and vows to wipe the last living Romanov from the face of the Earth. Sound confusing? Well it is, and the fact that much of the story is set up in the song lyrics will only send the plot even further over the little ones' heads. But despite the creepy sight of the decaying Rasputin and the film's even creepier politics, there is much for tots to enjoy: decent songs, an amusing script and some surprisingly imaginative animation. And when was the last time anyone shouted "Long live the Romanovs!" and the audience actually cheered? leave a comment --Ken Fox

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Finding Anastasia
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