Sunday, June 01, 2008

Movie review: Anastasia

Former Disney employee Don Bluth takes on feature animation with this retelling of the mystery of the Grand Duchess Anastasia.

When Czar Nicholas Romanov and his family were assassinated, the body of Anastasia could not be located or accounted for. For generations it was believed she escaped.

Amnesiac Anya (Meg Ryan) leaves the orphanage on her eighteenth birthday for a job in a fish market. At the proverbial fork in the road, she throws herself to fate and takes the road to St. Petersburg, where she meets Dimitri (John Cusack) and Vlad (Kelsey Grammer). These two hucksters have been auditioning fake Anastasias to present to the missing Grand Duchess' grandmother (Angela Lansbury) in Paris, and then collect the reward money.

Anya knows that Paris somehow plays a part in her blank past, and is looking for transport papers. Dimitri is "the man to see." Vlad and Dimitri notice the resemblance between Anya and the portrait of the Grand Duchess as a child, and convince Anya to see the royal grandmother to find out if she is the missing Anastasia.

The exchange is noticed by Bartok (Hank Azaria), a bat and keeper of the reliquary that holds the soul of Rasputin (Christopher Lloyd), the evil sorcerer who cursed the Romanovs and brought disaster on the family. Rasputin, trapped in limbo, does is best to thwart the journey. The chase is on.

There's far more mature dialog than in Disney fare, the hero and heroine banter in romantic comedy fashion. Historical accuracy takes a back seat to romance and entertainment, which may bother purists. If you toss aside the historical aspect and take it as a fairy tale, it's a very good one.

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