The Timeless Wisdom Of Newsies

Illustration for article titled The Timeless Wisdom Of Newsies

Earlier this week, it was announced that Newsies, that fixture in your VCR when you were 12 (or, uh, your DVD player when you were a freshman in college and discovering that vodka makes you storm out of parties and then nostalgic) will be returning as a play opening a Millburn, New Jersey theater's 2011 season, baffling some of the minds behind the original film. At first release, it was widely panned by critics, and I'm sure that today, many fans of theater will disagree with this next statement: Newsies is one of the greatest films of all time. Sure, it gets a little draggy toward the end, and sure the romantic subplot seems tacked on, and yes, some of the so-called teenage boys are inappropriately attractive, but the wisdom of Newsies is timeless and unstoppable. What does this film have to teach us? What doesn't this film have to teach us?


Unions Are Awesome And Intimidatingly Well-Choreographed
This week, Wisconsin legislators fled across state lines to delay a vote that would suppress the voice of public employees' unions while thousands of teachers called in sick and descended upon the state capitol in Madison to voice their opposition to Governor Scott Walker's proposed policies. A relative of mine, who is an administrator at a Wisconsin public high school, informed me that all of the teachers who called in sick at her school had doctors' notes and had the sick days to use and thus there was nothing that her administration could or would do. It was some good old fashioned cheesehead style cage-rattling, workers asserting their opposition to the threat of being pushed to consent to terms to which they did not agree. It was enough to make me want to run to my nearest going-bankrupt Borders and grab a DVD of Disney's quintessentially underappreciated musical masterpiece Newsies and cry little salty tears of cheesehead solidarity while I watched these ragtag youngsters take on Pulitzer and Hearst. Go, newsies! Go, teachers! I bet the dancing was fabulous!

Even Batman Had An Awkward Phase
One supernova in the galaxy of brilliant shining moments in this film is the presence of eighteen-year-old Christian Bale earnestly flailing around and not being able to put his tongue all the way back in his mouth. He sings about dreams and dresses like an aging modern-day hipster and tries too hard to sound like he's from New York and is sometimes a little cringingly adolescent. Oh god, is he trying to look cool while smoking? Oh, god, is he antagonizing dudes in fedoras? Oh god, is he stealing a horse? Oh, teenagers: remember when you see that one eye is closed in your first driver's license picture that once Christian Bale was in a musical wherein he wore a red neckerchief.

Brooklyn Is A Strange Land Full Of Tough Talkers With Slingshot Skills
This has been my exact experience visiting Brooklyn. Vaguely dangerous people shooting slingshots at things and smoking cigars while wearing bowler hats. Irish music constantly plays in the background. No, you don't want to mess with Brooklyn.

Mid-Air Punching And Crotch-Thrusting Is A Great Way To Assert Yourself
Tweenaged Me was scandalized by Christian Bale's crotch and the air in front of it, but the choreographers have a point. What muttonchopped besideburned rich jerk in his right mind would mess with a pod of young men thrusting in a public square? I sure wouldn't, and I plan to use this unstoppable punch n' thrust technique the next time I ask for a raise.

New Mexico Is America's Most Underrated State
People forget about it because it's off the beaten path (and the fact that it contains the word "Mexico" causes some of our stupider brethren to forget that it's actually in America), but Jack Kelly/Sullivan as played by Christian Bale was on the right track for pining for the clean air of the high desert. Even though New Mexico didn't become a state until 1912, Jack was ahead of the curve. New Mexico was (and is) legitimately pine after-able and I fully stand behind this schmaltzy musical endorsement of the Land of Enchantment. Santa Fe is still there, and it swears it won't forget you.

It Is Absolutely Not Cool To Be Mean To The Disabled
The antagonists in the film solidify their despicable nature in the minds of the viewers by beating up Crutchie, the physically disabled member of the Newsie crew. Crutchie is then taken to a home for wayward boys, where he's compelled to surrender Jack to the evil Mr. Snyder. The movie wants you to know that these guys are big jerks, and you don't like them. How big of jerks are they? Beating-up-the-disabled jerks.


Rich Media Types Are Scheming, One Dimensional, Monocle-Twirling Jerks With Effete Assistants
Harumph harumph ah yes, shall we poison the orphans, then? Harumph harumph.

Life's way easier when your enemies are totally one-dimensional. Now who wants to go punch Lydia Hearst?!


Bill Pullman Is Your Friend
There's never any doubt that intrepid New York Sun reporter Bryan Denton is on the side of the newsboys, even though logic dictates that a character with his background is probably not to be trusted. Bill Pullman is just so damn trustworthy! On the trusty scale, he's about even with Tom Hanks and arguably equal or greater than Morgan Freeman. Do not doubt Bill Pullman.

When You're Not Sure How To End Something, Just Drive Away In A Car While People Cheer
It worked for Grease, Blazing Saddles, Muriel's Wedding, and almost every movie ever that ends with nuptials. It's going to work for an acquaintance who claims his funeral will follow that basic design. If only it would work for a fluff piece on Jezebel about a borderline kitchy cult movie from the early 90's that I can't help but love.


(Gets in car, begins driving away.)
(Everyone cheers while I wave.)



One of the first things the Mr. and I bonded over was our shared love of this movie (and the Rocketeer. God I love the Rocketeer). I knew he was a keeper when he showed up shortly thereafter having *purchased* Newsies for me.

And am I the only one who wished they'd gotten rid of whats-her-face boring girl and replaced her with a sassy female newsie?