Bad Movies We Love: Newsies

This week's Bad Movie We Love teems with 2010 Oscar bait and the energy of a billion Gleebasers: It's Newsies, mistah! Jawnalism's finest musical! It's got ink on its fingahs! And Christian Bale's undying shame, too. Yes, Mr. Batman, The Fighter's best supporting actor, starred in Disney's 1992 flop about the newsboy strike of 1899 when he was just 18-years-old. He was joined by fellow Oscar buzzee Robert Duvall, Bill Pullman, kiddie legends like Luke Edwards and David Moscow, and -- mysteriously -- Ann-Margret. Read all about it! Costs a penny, yeh maniac.


Now: Remember when you saw your 17-year-old cousin Spencer's senior musical? It was Guys and Dolls. The horny cast snapped its suspenders and shot the dice. Remember? You were glad you saw Spencer's version because it was hammy and ghetto. Yes. You figured you'd never see the hifalutin' Sinatra movie anyway, and you're still thankful you haven't, because it would make Spencer's spazzy acting seem lame. Right, right. Well, Newsies is the first movie to seem like a high school take on a real classic, except that "classic" doesn't actually exist -- and that's why, somehow, Newsies is a classic. It's High School Musical: The Musical. Look at these silly upperclassmen! Homecoming stud Christian Bale totally got a chubby in the third act! I saw! Your chemistry teacher's son is a closet case! Teehee! Coach Duvall sucked ass at playing Joseph Pulitzer -- and why did he ditch the softball team to be in this lame play, anyway? Oh, right. He's hot for the props mistress. Duh. See you at band!

In other words, Newsies is a big-budget movie that feels cheap. The dinner theater costumes and choreography would make for one hell of a McDonald's commercial in 1992, but for a Disney movie, it's hokum. Adding to the grubbiness is a murderous run-time of 120 minutes, the presence of Ann-Margret (who looks like an Ace of Cakes rendering of Bernadette Peters here), and a bloated score that Alan Menken shouldn't often discuss. So where's the "love" in this BMWL, you ask? Why, it's wrapped up in Newsies secret (and sole) power: Gusto!

Talk about "selling it": From minute one, we're introduced to a world of newsboy accents and vernacular that the cast of Jersey Shore might call overkill. It's a penny a pape! William Randawf Huhst! New Yawwuuhhhhkkk! The boys bunk together like towers of Fraggles, and they set about hawking "papes" by shouting exaggerations to passersby. "Ellis Island on fire!" one ragamuffin hoots. That's a lie.

"It ain't lyin'," he claims. "it's just improving the truth a little." Oh.

Their unofficial ringleader is Jack "Cowboy" Kelly (Bale), who earned his power using River Phoenix hair. He often leads his coworkers in dance, which is unsafe since it turns out Jack is skilled in tap, jazz, swing, Parkour, and -- honestly -- hip-hop. An alternative title for this film might be Rhythm Nation 1899. Accent on noinety-noine.

Of course, Jack doesn't really have a family. He has the gift of song instead. If I were Jack, I'd re-gift it.

He's lonely. In one of Newsies's many unimportant sideplots, he hooks up with a friend's sister who flirts with him on her roof. She lives in the part of New York with a great view of Burbank, California.


In another tangent, Jack and his co-workers gawk and caw for a vaudeville star named Medda "Swedish Meadowlark" Larkson (Ann-Margret). No, not that Meadowlark.


Jack explains that Medda is a friend of his father's, but does that explain why they have such an intimate, hand-kissy relationship? I'm shivering.

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  • Dixon Gaines says:

    Louis, if not for Newsies, then might have never gotten his mash-up of "Seize the Day" and "Bad Romance." And that's not the kind of world that I want to raise my children in.

  • carrie says:

    Bad Romance on Newsies video is amazing

  • Lynn says:

    I freaking love Newsies! Unabashedly and with zero guilt. I'll watch it straight through whenever it's on. What a fun movie. It's sort of a smear on Disney's history (not quite a Song of the South smear, but still) and Christian Bale's career to some people, but I just love it.

  • Jamie says:

    1. Indeed, that Bad Romance mashup is top notch.
    2. When I was 14/15, I would rollerblade to the Newsies soundtrack in the basement. I wanted to be a girl Newsie sooooooo bad. But what was even cooler was that a lot of those newsies were on the show Roundhouse, which needs to be released on DVD, like, yesterday.

  • Louis Virtel says:

    Girl newsies were so in in 2006.

  • T. Davis says:

    When you are in a movie like Batman. Batman is the star, not you. And then you start thinking it's all about you. Hey, he's good actor, but almost any good actor could be Batman. Clooney, Keaton, etc. Put the suit back on and forget about this latest mess.

  • richie-rich says:

    you are very wrong...louis- louie,,,,,."Newsies" is a wonderful movie.
    Pauline Kael first told me to see it....and she was so correcto....a "Wonderful" movie it is!

  • The boys are back on the town!