Anastasia (1997) Review
Have you heard? There's a rumour that Anastasia is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year - so what better reason to dive into the animated classic?
Once upon a time, Don Bluth was one of the chief animators at Disney known for working on beloved projects such as Robin Hood, The Rescuers and Pete's Dragon. He ended up resigning from the company and working with Steven Spielberg and at Fox Animation Studios later throughout his career.
Bluth is an icon within the animation world and made some of the genre's most memorable films of all time. One of Bluth's greatest hits is Anastasia, which he co-directed with Gary Goldman. Despite looking visually stunning, Anastasia actually turns 25 this year, and what better way to celebrate it than looking into the film critically?
Many have fond memories about the film due to the unique plot, stunning visuals, great voice acting and the catchy songs
Inspired by the historical event of the Bolshevik Revolution, Anastasia is set in an alternative world and follows a young girl named Anya (voiced by Meg Ryan). She is no ordinary girl and is actually Anastasia "Anya" Romanov, AKA the last surviving Romanov from the massacre. Conveniently for the plot, Anya is saved by a servant boy but forgets his identity soon after being rescued.
As the film opens up, through an incredibly catchy song (A Rumor in St Petersburg), it's soon revealed that Anya is now grown up and leaving an orphanage to find her lost family in Paris. Coincidentally, she finds two men named Dimitri (voiced by John Cusack and Kelsey Grammer respectively) who are also going to Paris to trick the Duchess into believing they have found her long-lost granddaughter.
Of course, Anya falls in love with Dimitri and he starts losing his douchebag ways. There are ups and downs (including a magical Rasputin trying to destroy Anya) - but ultimately evil does not prevail. It’s no surprise that the film ends in true storybook fashion with the guy getting the girl and living happily ever after.
The first thing that catches your eye with this film is the absolutely stunning animation, which feels dynamic and wondrous at times. There are certain scenes that feel incredibly real, like a live-action film, which shows the genius from the creators. Thankfully, the voice acting from the cast matches the animation perfectly to create genuine characters that you can’t help but fall in love with.
There is, of course, the huge elephant in the room in the form of the supporting character Bartok (voiced by Hank Azaria), who is extremely divisive amongst audiences - similar to Mushu from Mulan. The legendary Christopher Lloyd does an incredible job as the main villain Rasputin but Bartok almost ruins some iconic moments throughout the film by being obnoxious and annoying. He provides ‘comedic’ relief but it’s essentially toilet humour that threatens to bring down the film.
This is what stops the film from being an iconic classic that can be fully enjoyed by people of all ages. Many have fond memories about the film due to the unique plot, stunning visuals, great voice acting and the catchy songs - but many forget about Bartok.
Thankfully, the memorable and genuinely fun moments of the film are not fully ruined, but it would easily be funnier and more enjoyable without this blatant misfire.