When Fox decided to give Disney a run for its money with a new kind of animated feature, no-one would have predicted it would plump for this messy, convoluted story. Taking huge liberties with history (although the Mouse Kingdom is equally guilty of this), it plunges into an alternative version of the Anastasia myth, which is hardly cheery family fare.
The assassination of the entire Romanov family is glossed over, along with the whole Russian revolution concept, and instead an evil villain, the mad monk Rasputin ("Rah, rah... lover of the Russian queen" etc), emerges as the man responsible for history-changing communism.
What comes across instead is a very old-fashioned and stagey musical. The songs are insipid (yet the score received an Oscar nod? Duh!), the plot creaks along and the kids in the screening cinema shuffled around in their seats with boredom. Yet the animation is nothing less than amazing. John Cusack and Meg Ryan's characters move uncannily like their real-life counterparts; a train crashes with an explosive sequence to rival any Die Hard film; and there's even a pseudo-Titanic moment.
This film proves that Fox definitely has the potential to produce a worthy competitor to Disney, and certainly this is no less cringeworthy than Pocahontas. The animation is first-class. Now all they need is a good story.
An old-fashioned musical, with a clutch of extremely dull songs and a very dodgy story, is not the best showcase for some obviously talented animators and great vocal talents. Roll on the next one, entitled Planet Ice.