Culture of Pop

Throwback Thursday: ‘Anastasia’ (1997)

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 11.27.21 AM 2Okay, so to be totally forthright, Anastasia is one of my favorite movies. I’ve probably seen it upwards of 100 times. BUT it’s been a while (and by a while I mean maybe five years), so I’ve had this movie on my list since I started doing these throwbacks.

Anastasia may not be a real Disney princess – although she frequently gets confused for one – but let’s be real, Anastasia is the best princess movie. Anastasia, unlike many Disney princesses, never gets bogged down by controversy such as, “she gave up a part of herself for a boy she only met once,” or, “she fell in love with her kidnapper.”

No, Anastasia is an independent woman who don’t need no man (except for at the end when she decides that she wants one). She’s different. She’s not afraid to speak her mind, which was not normal for the time in which her movie takes place, and that aspect wasn’t normal for that specific era of princess movies, either. The writers are well aware of this, and even poke a little fun with the line, “She certainly has a mind of her own.” “Yeah I hate that in a woman.”

Anastasia has everything that could ever make for the perfect Disney movie, besides the actual sticker of approval:

  1. Romance: Among a cast of other big names Meg Ryan and John Cusack – the queen and king of rom coms at one point – voice the leads Anastasia and Dimitri. The two spend the first half of the movie bickering like the old married couple they’ll one day be, and the second half of the movie pretending that all the bickering wasn’t a symptom of something else. As a kid I squealed every time Anastasia and Dimitri almost kissed, culminating in one final shriek when they finally did at the end. But I was surprised to find that I still get chills when Dimitri realizes that Anya actually is Anastasia, and, oh shit, he’s in love with the princess. Of course, there’s also the cute flirtation between Vladimir and Sophie, and even Bartok gets a girl at the end, but none of them will ever hold a candle to Dimitri and Anastasia.
  2. An amazing soundtrack: Anastasia has bangers that will keep any kid dancing (and waltzing) throughout the entire hour and thirty minutes. Remember December may or may not be the most played track on my iTunes. And though little me may not have been a fan, I now have the sense to appreciate the fact that In The Dark of the Night is the best villain theme since Be Prepared (The Lion King) and Poor Unfortunate Souls (The Little Mermaid). But don’t just take my word for how great their music is, take it from, oh I don’t know, whoever’s brilliant idea it was to turn the movie into a freaking Broadway musical. That makes three Broadway shows I would kill to see (probably not literally).
  3. ADORABLE animal sidekicks: I had already wanted a dog before I watched Anastasia as a kid, but afterwards I was also convinced that I needed a pet bat. I didn’t get, either, instead my parents appeased me with a stuffed animal version of Pooka, whose ears flapped just like in the movie. It wasn’t good enough. Turns out it wasn’t just a symptom of being young and in love with every cartoon animal to ever grace my TV, I still want a Pooka and a Bartok. Pooka is quite literally the perfect dog, and looks damn good in a crown and scabbard, whereas Bartok is a sassy and sardonic little sweetheart who you can’t fault for playing for the wrong side because he’s just so darn cute.
  4. A villain who is both scary enough to frighten the children, and reduce them to a fit of giggles: The Rasputin in Anastasia doesn’t really resemble the real Rasputin besides his altogether creepiness and the fact that he “dies” by drowning in a frozen lake – but like the real Rasputin turns out to be a little harder to kill. Anastasia’s Rasputin is quite literally falling apart; he loses body parts any time he gets a little too angry. This borders scary and hilarious when you’re a kid, and makes for some pretty amazing puns for the adults. That’s why I was a little shocked to find that Anastasia only received a G rating, not to mention his creepy spirit henchmen, and the fact that he literally drags himself out of hell/limbo to kill our main girl. But the 90’s were a different time.
  5. And the last thing that makes Anastasia the perfect family movie; it’s educational: This probably isn’t high on a kid’s list when choosing a movie, but I for one appreciate when a story teaches kids something – thanks, mom and dad, for believing the same thing and making me the nerd that I am. Anastasia is only loosely based on the events following the Russian Revolution, execution of the royal family, and the legend that Anastasia still lived. But like I said most kids don’t care about historical accuracy. EXCEPT me. After watching Anastasia for the first time, followed by an immediate second screening, I devoured every Anastasia book I could get my hands on. As an adult it’s even more fun to be able to pick out the truths from the fiction, like only someone who’s read five biographies on the titular character could do.

So, yeah, Anastasia may not be Disney, but like the best of Disney’s earlier movies, it contains a sense of eternality that makes it just as amazing whether you’re watching it for the first, third, or hundredth time.

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