"Friens and feller workers. Dis is a time which tries de hearts of men. Dis is de time when we'se got to stick together like glue....We know wot we wants and we'll git it even if we is blind." - Kid Blink
Newsies tells the story of the newsboys strike of 1899, which was a youth led campaign to stimulate a change in the meager compensation of the children who sold the newspapers for publishing tycoons like Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst. These industry giants relied on children to sell their papers, but like many other industries throughout time, they thought they could get away with the exploitation of children simply because they knew most of them had no other resources or opportunities.
The real strike was brought on because the publishers raised the initial cost of the papers to the newsboys who bought the papers outright and were stuck with the costs if the papers didn't sell. The strike was led by Kid Blink who was blind in one eye, but still he overcame his hardships and stood up for himself and more than 5,000 other newsies to bring about the changes that gave them a fighting chance at survival on the streets. Kid Blink was portrayed in the movie but played a much smaller role in the film than he did in the actual strike.
In the film the boys are led by Jack Kelly (Christian Bale) and David Jacobs (David Moscow) who both come from different backgrounds but are united for their cause. This was the first film I saw Christian Bale in, and as a young boy I saw him as much of a hero as he now plays in the current Batman trilogy. His character was very down to earth and for me, he was even a role model.
All the kids in this show do an excellent job in their roles. Often times in musicals things can seem cheesy or forced when the characters break out into song and dance, but in Newsies it felt very natural throughout most of this show. It's that natural flow of song and dance which can be attributed in large part to the energy and chemistry of the cast.
While Newsies is based on actual events, it's obvious that the film takes liberties in order to make the story and characters stand out. This is an art form that Disney films have always relied on, to draw us in and connect with their characters. With the majority of these children being orphans living on the streets of New York, they really didn't have anywhere else to turn, and the odds were against them.
The director Kenny Ortega has a history of working with kids and musicals and seems to have a knack for making them work, though this is by far my favorite film he has done. More recently his return to working with Disney has brought him and the Disney Channel some big hits with teen successes like the High School Musical and Cheetah Girl movies. I'll be the first to admit that I'm not the biggest fan of those movies even though I think they're actually well done, and you can see how Newsies paved the way for Ortega's future success.
Newsies has been one of my favorite films since I first saw it back when I was a 12 year old boy, I was enthralled by the lives that all of these kids lived. I have always thought it would have been great to live in a simpler time. Even with how much I love technology and all of the perks it brings with it, I think it also distracts us from living our lives to the fullest. In Newsies all of the central characters come from a history of hardships and poverty, but yet they live their lives to the fullest, which in turn inspires watchers to "seize the day" and to make the most of their lives. That's why I think Newsies deserves a perfect 10.
Disney's high definition presentation of Newsies looks great, you can really see the detail of the backgrounds and all of the clothing and set's textures look really rich and detailed. The colors throughout the film are very neutral and drab to go long with time period the film is based, yet colors still come off bright and detailed. The black levels were very solid allowing for all of the scenes in both day and night to come off the screen accurately. As great as high definition is, it can also bring out some flaws in older live action films, and that was the case on some of the scenes that were indoor shots in this film which had a tendency to come off as a bit grainy. Overall these types of flaws should be expected when older films are released on Blu-ray.
Newsies 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is where this Blu-ray really calls for an upgrade from DVD, as the audio sounded great. It was very vibrant and lively allowing for the show to come alive all around you. The dialogue is very loud and clear throughout and all of the audio effects were very crisp as they surround you throughout the movie. And of course the music is a big part of this movie and it will not disappoint you on this 5.1 track, it just sounds great. This is one of my favorite soundtracks and I find the music to be very uplifting and inspirational and listen to it often on my iPhone, but hearing it on my surround system today, it was like I was hearing it for the first time. The audio in Newsies is definitely the best part of the updated release.
Extras, extras! Read all about them! I really enjoyed watching the bonus features on this anniversary release of Newsies though I believe most of them- if not all of them -were also included on the earlier DVD release, but I do feel they covered all the bases with the features by including a little bit of everything for everyone. The additional features help to understand the story behind the film better, and also give you a firsthand look at the film making process.
As a fan of Kenny Ortega's Newsies, I would definitely recommend adding the Blu-ray release to your home collection. The movie has held up well over time and I have a hard time believing that it had already been 20 years since it came out, but watching it again I think that it's a movie that can be enjoyed by most anyone because it tells a great story with a lot of heart. If you're a parent and remember watching it as a kid then this would be a great one to share with them now. And if your not familiar with the film then there is no time like the present to check it out. I've gained an appreciation for musicals in recent years but this is one that I enjoyed as a kid, so give it a shot and if you don't like it you can always go sell it to someone on the street corner, Newsie style.