movie review: newsies

July, 1899: When Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst raise the distribution price one-tenth of a cent per paper, ten cents per hundred, the newsboys, poor enough already, are outraged. Inspired by the strike put on by the trolley workers, Jack “Cowboy” Kelly (Christian Bale) organizes a newsboys’ strike. With David Jacobs (David Moscow) as the brains of the new union, and Jack as the voice, the weak and oppressed found the strength to band together and challenge the powerful.


How do I love this movie? Let me count the ways…

~Historical film? Check.
~Musical film? Check.
~Great songs/dancing? Check.
~Amazing characters? Check.
~Critics hated it? Check.

But before I cover all those points in detail, let me give a little background first (ugh, my brain keeps pronouncing all these words with a New Yawk accent…’foist’). A few weeks ago, I discovered the Original Broadway Cast Recording of Newsies. I adored it (I still do). I listened to it every day. I watched tons of clips on Youtube. Now, I knew there was a movie, and I really wanted to see it, but when I listened to the movie’s soundtrack, it seemed a little, well, flat compared to the OBC. But I got the movie from the library and watched it. It was good. Really good. The songs were a bit short, and the lyrics were different (actually the OBC’s lyrics were different, since they came after, but anyway…). And then I watched it again (over the course of several weeks, I’ve seen it five times). My sister liked it. My mom liked it. My grandparents liked it. And I love it. When you’ve seen a movie five times, you start to notice tiny details that you probably wouldn’t have on your first or second watch. Every time I watch it, I notice or realize something new, and that’s what makes it fun. So, my recommendation is that if you enjoyed it the first time, watch it a couple more times. You’ll gain a new appreciation every time.

Okay. So.

Newsies is a historical film. I love history. Most of the books I read are set in other time periods, whether they’re historical fiction (I don’t read much of that, since most of it is either boring or inappropriate) or classics (which are different from historical fiction since they were [usually] written as a contemporary thingy by the author). History is my second favorite subject in school (after literature). One thing I love about finding/liking movies like Newsies is that, since I get obsessed, I’ll learn a lot about the time period. Sure, much of what I’ve learned about New York in the late 1800’s relates to Newsies in some way or other, but it’s still good information. There are some historical inaccuracies, of course. I’m pretty sure the Newsies didn’t have a big, clean, comfortable boarding house to go back to every night. Kid Blink was the actual leader of the strike (well, Racetrack started it, and Kid took over). Jack Kelly is a fictitious character (as are most of the other Newsies, except for Spot, Mush, and Boots). And the thing about them singing and dancing should probably be taken with a grain of salt….

Musical films are awesome. Les Miserables, The Sound Of Music, Singin’ In The Rain, The King And I, Mary Poppins (I don’t like everything about Mary Poppins, but the ending is sweet)…I’m sure I’ve watched others, but I can’t remember all of them right now. Good musicals are the ones that have you humming and singing their songs for days (or weeks!) after seeing the movie. Newsies definitely does that. My two brothers swear that they hate it, but I’ve caught them humming several of the songs more than once. All the songs are catchy (as in earworm catchy), fun, and high-energy (well, ‘Santa Fe’ may not be fun or fast-paced, but it’s still awesome). They also follow the musical theatre rule that reprises are more serious and/or sad. The reprise of ‘Santa Fe’ is the saddest, while the reprise of ‘The World Will Know’ is serious, triumphant, and exciting (as is the reprise of ‘Seize The Day’. Honestly, all the songs are amazing. I can’t say enough good things about them.

*comes back after two hours of listening to songs from Newsies*


Sorry about that. I got a little carried away.

Moving on…

The characters! My favorite part of any book or movie (usually). So, first, there’s Jack. Jack has dreams of going to, you guessed it, Santa Fe to escape the poor, squalid streets of New York. At first, I thought he sounded bored when he was singing the iconic song (I was used to the passionate, emotional stage musical version) but now that I’ve come to terms with the fact that the movie and the stage musical are quite different, it doesn’t bother me at all. I really like Christian Bale’s rendition now. Jack watches out for ‘his’ newsies, and even ones that he doesn’t know (like David, at first). Sure, he has a bad habit of ‘improvin’ the truth’, but I guess if your real name is Francis Sullivan, you wouldn’t want many people to know. Oh, and speaking of the whole Francis Sullivan thing, let me talk about the film’s villains for a bit. There are two – Pulitzer and Snyder (I don’t like talking about Unpleasant People, so this will be quick). Both of them are out to get Jack, but for different reasons. Pulitzer hates Jack because he’s the strike leader. Snyder hates Jack because he escaped from the ‘Refuge’. I guess I should list the Delancey brothers in the villain category as well…depending on which movie insult you want to use, they could be called lousy little shrimps or stupid pigs. Or whatever.

Newsies is kind of like Les Mis, in that there’s a band of minor characters (barricade boys/Newsies) who don’t really have a lot of screen time and unless you concentrate, it’s pretty hard to figure out who is who and what their names are. At least that’s been my experience. Now, Spot is Spot. Everyone knows who he is (how could you not?) and what he does and where he stands. Just…just give me a minute to talk about him. HE’S SO AWESOOOOOME. *fangirl squeals and hand flapping* He has several of the best quotes and he’s so epic with his slingshot and his cane and his accent (yeah, I know. They all have the same accent. But his seems the most real). Plus, when he hangs around with the other guys, it’s kind of adorable. Like, when he sings during ‘King Of New York’ and the courtroom scene (I love how when Race offers to, um, whatever the gambling term he used meant, they all laugh and, yeah…it’s pretty funny).

I’ve managed to identify a few of the Newsies (mainly the ones I thought were cute, thus I was interested, thus I bothered to check them out). Kid Blink, Racetrack, Mush, Skittery, Boots, Snipeshooter, Specs, Crutchie…I think that’s about all. My favorite is Mush (I guess you can’t be a Newsie unless you have a weird nickname – some of the make sense like Race or Specs {who wears glasses} but Mush? Really?). He’s one of the better dancers, in my opinion, and I like to think he’s part of the glue that keeps the gang together. He seems like one of the more sensible ones. Still, all of them crack jokes or, if they don’t do that, at least say something funny. I can’t leave this post without a few quotes that always make me laugh, no matter how many times I watch/hear them.

“It’s this brain of mine…it’s got a mind of it’s own!” ~Crutchie
“Look at you, Jack! You look like a general, or somethin’!” ~Mush
“I’m sure it’s an honest mistake. I mean, Morris here can’t count to twenty with his shoes on.” ~Jack
“Baby born with two heads. Must be from Brooklyn.” ~Race
“Five bucks? We ain’t even got five cents.” ~Race
“I say that what you say…is what I say.” ~Spot
“Oh, you mean Jack Kelly. Yeah, he was here. But he put an egg in his shoe…and beat it.” ~Race

There are a bunch of other great quotes, but, as usual, they’ve all slipped my mind.

I’m going to wrap this up with a couple more points, and then this insanely long review will be over. First of all, the only things I don’t like in this film are 1) Medda {she’s completely unnecessary and her character makes for a couple of skippable scenes} and 2) Sarah {ugh, ugh, ugh}. I’m pretty sure Sarah was written into the script at the very last minute as a stupid love interest for Jack. To quote this post: “Sarah Jacobs is the biggest problem with the movie “Newsies.” There is not one true “Newsies” fan who approves of Sarah Jacobs as a love interest for Jack. Jack is adventurous, rebellious and can sing. Sarah is boring and doesn’t sing. There relationship will never work out. Sarah is the worst.” I completely agree. If there could be any explainable reason why the critics hate, loathe, and despise this film, it would be her. I’ve found that if critics hate it, I’ll love it (and sometimes vice-versa). I mean, they hated on the Les Mis movie! What did I tell you? But, honestly, I can’t think of any other reason they would hate it. The songs are good, the acting’s good, the story is good…IT’S ALL GOOD. WHY CAN’T YOU UNDERSTAND THAT, CRITICS?

And, really, there’s nothing that can match the wonderfully joyful feeling when Jack shouts “WE BEAT ‘EM!” at the very end. Everyone goes crazy, laughing and crying and cheering. All that hard work, and pain, and heartache culminates in that one triumphant scene. Of course, Jack has to throw in a downer with going away….but then he returns and everyone’s happy again (when Mush says “He’s back!”, he looks about ready to cry – from happiness, of course. Just one of the many little observations I’ve made over the course of five viewings). Sarah and Jack have that very long, very intense, very gross kiss, which I usually skip because if they hadn’t done that, I could’ve easily believed Jack was indifferent about her. Honestly. And then they all go down the street singing ‘Carrying The Banner’ with Spot riding off in Teddy Roosevelt’s carriage (that was the perfect touch). Except for the kiss, the ending of Newsies is one of the best movie endings I’ve ever seen. It’s a bit confusing, though, since there are about three times that a first time watcher might think the movie was over…but it just keeps going.

But I’m not complaining.

Carpe Diem!



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