'Anastasia': A not-so-imperial effort
and © Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved.
From Reviewer Carol Buckland
(CNN) -- "Anastasia" is a Disney-derivative production from
the Fox Animation Studios. While it offers some strong
on-screen values, it has a secondhand feel. It's also likely
to send sticklers for historical accuracy screaming for the
The film gets off to a visually engrossing start, portraying
the final days of the imperial Russian family. Their
enchanted (and decidedly elitist) world is swept away -- not
by a communist-inspired revolution, but by a curse invoked by
the mad monk, Rasputin. The youngest Romanov daughter, the
"Princess" Anastasia, survives but can't remember who she is.
The only clue to her past is a pendant engraved with a
promise about Paris.
Dissolve forward 10 years. Anastasia (now Anya the amnesiac
orphan) has grown into a suitably spunky heroine -- not
unlike Ariel the mermaid or the Beast's beloved Belle -- who
longs for an identity and a loving family.
Underwhelmed by the prospects of a career in a fish
processing factory, she heads off for St. Petersburg. En
route, she acquires a predictably cute little dog named
Pooka. Once in St. Pete, Anya is conned into going to Paris
by a pair of scam artists who plan to earn a big reward by
persuading the dowager Empress Marie that she is Anastasia.
Rasputin, meanwhile, has been rotting in a creepy kind of
netherworld. He's more or less dead. However, the
realization that one of the accursed Romanovs escaped his
evil clutches sort of ... um ... reanimates him.
Will Anya discover who she is? Will Dimitri (the cute young
con artist) do the right thing? Will the dowager empress
embrace her granddaughter? Will Rasputin get his? This is a
cartoon for kids. What do you think??
The animation in "Anastasia" ranges from superficially stiff
to sumptuously superb. There are two terrific action
sequences -- a train wreck and a storm at sea, both
orchestrated by Rasputin -- as well as a lovely scene in the
abandoned imperial palace when Anya's memory tries to
reassert itself. While Rasputin is effectively executed
(he's reminiscent of several demons from "Fantasia"), much of
the drawing for Anya and Dimitri is flat.
Anastasia/Anya is perkily voiced by Meg Ryan. John Cusack
brings an interesting edge to Dimitri, making him more
appealing than the usual animated hero. Angela Lansbury adds
vocal class to the proceedings in the role of the dowager
As frequently happens in this type of production, the bad
guys get most of the good lines. Christopher Lloyd has nasty
fun with Rasputin, and Hank Azaria is excellent as his
sidekick, a bat named Bartok. The songs by Lynn Ahrens and
Stephen Flaherty are enjoyable in an unmemorable sort of way.
Few folks are likely to be humming as they leave the theater.
"Anastasia" is OK entertainment. But it never reaches a level
of emotional magic.
"Anastasia" runs 94 minutes. It's rated G. There are
several scary sequences with Rasputin that may be too intense
for sensitive little kids. The younger set may also find the
story rather confusing to follow.
© 1997 Cable News Network, Inc.
All Rights Reserved.