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This came out in 1992, but I first saw it in 2018. It was a box office bomb, but developed a cult following. And I don't really see any reason for anyone not to like it (unless you just don't like musicals, period). I mean, I didn't love it, but I definitely thought it was good. And I didn't find the songs particularly memorable, but they serve the story well enough. Anyway... it's based on actual events, but I think it's been fictionalized enough that I wouldn't list it in my "based on a true story" category of reviews.
It's set in 1899, and begins with a bit of narration. When I heard it I was like, "Is that Max Casella?" (Actually, it was more like, "Hey, that sounds like Vinnie from Doogie Howser." But it didn't take me long to remember the actor's name.) And indeed, it was him. He also plays one of the newsies (i.e., newspaper boys), Racetrack Higgins. There are actually hundreds of newsies in the movie, but most of them are extras. And very few of them are of any great importance to the story. The main one is Jack "Cowboy" Kelly (Christian Bale). One day, he befriends a couple of boys who have just recently started working as newsies, David Jacobs and his little brother, Les. They're only doing it because their father had a recent injury in his factory job, which got him fired. They sell papers published by Joe Pulitzer, who is looking to increase his revenue, due to a rivalry with William Randolph Hearst. One of Pulitzer's advisers suggests raising the price newsies must pay the distributors for the newspapers they'll be selling. Of course, most of the newsies are already barely eking out a meager living, and can't afford even a slight price increase. So Jack decides to organize a strike, with David as his adviser. They'll have to get all the newsies in New York City on board, and the most important one they must convince is a boy from Brooklyn named Spot Conlon. Aside from the people I've mentioned so far, the only other newsies I recall are "Crutchie" (who walks with a crutch) and "Boots."
Well, the newsies get some help in their cause from a reporter named Bryan Denton (Bill Pullman). Although I was a bit confused as to how his writing about their strike could actually help them if none of them were selling newspapers while on strike. But whatevs. And at one point, they hold a rally in a theater, with help from a Vaudevillian singer named Medda Larkson (Ann-Margret), who is a friend of Jack's. Meanwhile, Jack begins to develop a relationship with David's older sister, Sarah. And we learn that Jack had escaped from an orphanage called "the Refuge," which is really more like a juvenile detention center. The warden there, Mr. Snyder, wants to catch Jack and return him to the refuge, and makes a deal with Pulitzer, who wants to put an end to the strike. Eventually, the newsies try to expand their strike to include all the child laborers from various industries throughout the city.
That's all I wanna say about the plot, I guess. But I will say that watching it in 2018 felt very timely to me, as we're living in an era when I think supporting unions is more important than it has been for a long time. And it's definitely a good time to see victories for the working class.