It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
The legend of Anastasia would seem like unlikely inspiration for
an animated musical, but “Anastasia” picks and chooses cleverly, skipping
blithely past the entire Russian Revolution but lingering on mad monks, green
goblins, storms at sea, train wrecks and youthful romance. The result is
entertaining and sometimes exciting--a promising launch for Fox's new animation
studio, which has declared war on Disney.
The movie's based loosely on the same speculative story as the 1956 feature film starring Ingrid Bergman; it assumes that when Russia's ruling Romanov family was murdered in the upheaval of revolution, one child escaped the carnage and survived to make a valid claim for the throne. This was Anastasia (voice by Meg Ryan), granddaughter of the Dowager Empress Marie (Angela Lansbury), who herself escaped to Paris and now wearily rejects one imposter after another.
Young Anastasia is seen wrapped in the warm bosom of her family; then disaster strikes, and she spends years in a cruel orphanage, losing all memory of her earlier days. Then as a lithe and spirited teenager, she falls into the clutches of two con men named Dimitri (John Cusack) and Vladimir (Kelsey Grammer). They both worked in the royal court and have insider knowledge; their scheme is to tutor an imposter until she can fool the Dowager Empress. The irony, which the movie makes much of, is that this impostor is, in fact, the real thing.
“Anastasia” tells this story within what has become the almost rigid formula of the modern animated feature: The heroine and the hero both have sidekicks, the villain commands nasty little minions, and romance blooms, but doesn't get too soppy.