Anastasia ★★★

There are films you haven’t seen since you were a kid and watching them it is like a constant wave of deja vu hitting you over and over. Every scene turns into a “oh, I remember this!” moment. It’s curious how many childhood memories I have related to hearing “Once upon a December”, a song that still lulls me into a cosy, warm feeling. 

Still, Anastasia is a lot stranger than I remembered. Not just because it has a half decomposed villain that keeps falling apart and at one point we’re inside his literal guts (loved it, by the way!). It’s the films clear ambition to ride on the wave of the Disney-renaissance, but clearly struggling to find what made the Disney princess formula so successful. Like setting it in Russia, a long time ago, except its just after WWI and claiming that everything was great before the tzar rule was overthrown. In fact, everyone in Russia loved their royal family, but a curse caused them to revolt and now the country is poor and sad. Weird. Or the fact that the villain Rasputin is sidelined for the entire film, just popping in and out at the films convenience, but having no effect on the plot what so ever. And of course, the strange mix of animated styles. There’s gross looking early CGI blended with hand drawn animation that is occasionally realistic, occasionally stylized and cartoony. It’s not that Anastasia doesn’t look good, it just look weird some times. Some sequences are gorgeous, and all the backdrops are just magical, like our characters are walking in front of paintings. The cast is just stacked with A-listers, but their facial animations look weird. It’s a bit of an anomaly, this one. With too much personality to be dismissed, and frankly engaging characters to boot, but some genuinely odd choices made either in the name of ambition or saving money, I can’t tell. Deducting a star because of that pink girl bat just swooping into frame in the last second. Creeped me out.