REVIEW: ANASTASIA (1997)

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CAST

Meg Ryan (Amityville 3)
John Cusack (2012)
Christopher Lloyd (Piranha 3DD)
Kelsey Grammer (Frasier)
Hank Azaria (The Simpsons)
Bernadette Peters (The Jerk)
Kirsten Dunst (Spider-Man)
Angela Lansbury (Murder She Wrote)
Andrea Martin (Wag The Dog)
Lacey Chabert (Mean Girls)

In 1916, Tsar Nicholas II hosts a ball at the Catherine Palace to celebrate the Romanov tricentennial. His mother, the Dowager Empress Marie Feodorovna, is visiting from Paris and gives a music box and a necklace inscribed with the words “Together in Paris” as parting gifts to her youngest granddaughter, 8-year-old Grand Duchess Anastasia. The ball is suddenly interrupted by the sorcerer Grigori Rasputin, the former royal advisor of the Romanovs until he was banished by Nicholas II for treason. Feeling betrayed and seeking revenge, Rasputin sold his soul in exchange for an unholy reliquary, which he uses to place a curse on the Romanov family, sparking the Russian Revolution. Only Marie and Anastasia are able to escape the ensuing siege of the palace, thanks to a young servant boy named Dimitri who shows them a secret passageway in Anastasia’s room. Rasputin confronts the two royals outside on a frozen river, only to fall through the ice and drown. The pair manage to reach a moving train, but only Marie climbs aboard while Anastasia falls, hitting her head on the platform and giving her amnesia.
Ten years later, Russia is under communist rule and Marie has publicly offered 10 million rubles for the safe return of her granddaughter. Dimitri and his friend/partner-in-crime Vladimir search for a look-alike to bring to Paris and pass off as Anastasia so they can collect the reward. Elsewhere, Anastasia, now 18 years of age and using the name “Anya”, leaves the rural orphanage where she grew up, still suffering from amnesia. Accompanied by a stray puppy she names “Pooka”, she decides to head to Saint Petersburg, inspired by the passage on the necklace she still has. She is unable to leave Russia due to not having an exit visa, but an old woman advises her to see Dimitri at the abandoned palace where he has made residence. There she encounters Dimitri and Vladimir, who are impressed by her resemblance to the “real” Anastasia and decide to take her with them to Paris.
Bartok, Rasputin’s albino bat minion, is nearby and notices his master’s dormant reliquary suddenly revived by Anastasia’s presence; it drags him to limbo, where Rasputin survives. Enraged to hear that Anastasia escaped the curse, Rasputin sends his demonic minions from the reliquary to kill her; despite two assassination attempts, the trio manage to (unwittingly) foil him, forcing Rasputin and Bartok to travel back to the surface.
Anastasia, Dimitri, and Vladimir eventually reach Paris and go to meet Marie, who has given up the search: having been nearly fooled numerous times by impostors. Despite this, Marie’s cousin, Sophie, quizzes Anastasia to confirm her identity. Though Anastasia offers every answer taught to her, Dimitri finally realizes she is the real Anastasia when she (without being taught to) vaguely recollects how he had saved her ten years prior. Sophie, also convinced of Anastasia’s identity, arranges a meeting with Marie at the Palais Garnier Opera house. There, Dimitri tries to establish an introduction but Marie refuses, having already heard of Dimitri’s initial scheme to con her. Anastasia overhears the conversation and angrily leaves, feeling used. Dimitri then kidnaps Marie and takes her to see Anastasia, showing her the music box he recovered during their escape. Anastasia finally meets Marie and regains her memories as they converse, convincing the empress of her identity. The two are joyfully reunited.
Marie offers Dimitri the reward money, but to her surprise, he refuses it and leaves for Russia. Marie realizes that Dimitri was the servant boy that saved their lives ten years ago and that he loves Anastasia. That night at Anastasia’s return celebration, Marie informs her of Dimitri’s gesture, leaving Anastasia torn between Marie and Dimitri. However, soon after Marie tells Anastasia that she can have both, Pooka suddenly runs off. Anastasia chases him to the Pont Alexandre III, where she is trapped and attacked by Rasputin. Dimitri returns to save her but is injured and knocked unconscious while Bartok abandons Rasputin. In the struggle, Anastasia manages to get hold of Rasputin’s reliquary and crushes it under her foot, destroying it and disintegrating Rasputin, who is also finally destroyed.

In the aftermath, Dimitri and Anastasia reconcile; they then elope, and Anastasia sends a farewell letter to Marie and Sophie, promising to return one day. The couple kisses on a riverboat and Bartok shares a kiss with a female bat before bidding the audience farewell.One of the last visually stunning traditional animated films with a beautifully developed story and loveable characters. Everything is wonderful– the sets, the animation, the dresses, the journey to France, Paris, the songs..

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