Anastasia: Once Upon a Time (2020)

dir. Blake Harris

Fox Animation Studios’ 1997 Anastasia is justifiably derided for taking a serious and significant historical event, and turning it into a dumb kids’ film complete with basic “good versus bad” dichotomy, magic spells, and animal sidekicks. But Anastasia: Once Upon a Time provides some real perspective on Fox’s efforts. The 1997 Anastasia did not, for example, think a kids’ movie is an appropriate way introduce a scheming, sneering Lenin as the big bad guy. The 1997 Anastasia did not, therefore, reveal that Lenin was secretly in cahoots with a dastardly sorceress all along. The 1997 Anastasia did not declare that Rasputin was actually a good and decent man, until turned evil by the powers of said dastardly sorceress. The 1997 Anastasia did not feature Anastasia’s escape via magical portal which transports her, for some reason, to Madison, Wisconsin. The 1997 Anastasia did not furnish this already ludicrous idea with the casual addition that our heroine is propelled forward in time to the year 1989. The 1997 Anastasia did not feature tween pop stars, singing orphans, dress-up montages, hideous costumes, monotonous bullies, and an utterly confounding 5-second detour to Disneyland. The 1997 Anastasia did not choose to set its big dramatic climax in a children’s playground, with swings and a roundabout being used to outwit the enemy. Truly, Fox’s version of the Anastasia tale is practically cinematic genius when compared to this absolutely bizarre, inexplicable mess.

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