Newsies

Movie review by
Charles Cassady Jr., Common Sense Media
Newsies Movie Poster Image
Parents recommendPopular with kids
Kids go on strike in gritty, historical musical.
  • PG
  • 1992
  • 121 minutes

Parents say

age 8+
Based on 9 reviews

Kids say

age 8+
Based on 20 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

While Jack deceives his friends (and himself, to a point) about his past, and is coerced into quitting the strike, he eventually does the right thing, especially when his friend David is threatened. While it's never made clear in the dialogue, there's a sense of the melting-pot of New York, with Irish, Jewish, and African American kids overcoming their gang-like divisions to unite in the strike. Adults are mostly meanies, although a few high-placed ones come to the rescue in the end. There are only a few girls in the story, but they stand with the good guys.

Violence

Much fist-fighting and beat-downs, some incorporated into dance choreography (think West Side Story), some not (as in a bare-knuckle boxing match). Often grown men threaten to beat kids. Kids attack back with slingshots.

Sex

A scandal headline about a nude corpse, and that's about it.

Language

"Damn" and "dumbasses" uttered.

Consumerism

References to newspapers of yesteryear, most of which don't exist now.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Raffish boys smoke (and steal their cigarettes and cigars), and a little child drinks beer to win a bet.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this Disney production features a tough, New York street-level milieu, in which confrontations frequently threaten to culminate in fist-fighting, and often do. There are menacing scenes of adults threatening to beat children using clubs and chains, and a rivalry between different subsets of kids looks somewhat like street gangs. One boy smokes cigarettes. There is a strong pro-union (and anti-management) sentiment throughout.

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User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byIlovethebackies May 31, 2019

NEWSIES!

Newsies is an awesome movie. My favorite song is Seize the Day and my favorite character is Crutchie. The only problem is that it has a couple of bad words.
Adult Written byCOMomof4 May 11, 2020

Watch out for violence

I remember this as a fun musical from my childhood, but with the amount of violence, it made my 8 year old upset. The fun dance numbers and happy ending was not... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written bydogtome August 17, 2019
Teen, 16 years old Written bydogtome August 17, 2019

What's the story?

Loosely based on actual incidents, NEWSIES casts New York City daily-newspaper tycoon Joseph Pulitzer ( Robert Duvall) in a most villainous light. Engaged in a circulation war with rival William Randolph Hearst, the greedy Pulitzer raises the rates at which the "newsies" buy the "papes" every morning. The street-savvy kids decide to form a union of all newsboys in the city, to defy not just Pulitzer but also Hearst and anyone who pushes them around. Leading the strike is orphan Jack (Christian Bale), and David (David Moscow), who works to help support his family. Pulitzer refuses to negotiate. He fights back viciously, with hired muscle, "scabs," and, finally, blackmailing Jack. David and his household also become targets, in between the singing.

Is it any good?

Newsies, with its energetic score and large-scale dance gymnastics, hits a note lost between the pop-fantasy and ragtime of Bugsy Malone and the R-rated realism of Gangs of New York. Dramatically there is some surprisingly strong stuff here, and perhaps Newsies would have come across better without the tunes.

Even with an upbeat finale, most grownups come across as the worst kind of abusive authority-figures, domineering and brute-force guardians, although a few adults support the boys. There is pretty strong Goliath-vs.-David sense of injustice and helplessness, with police and hired thugs against the kids. Ruthless, immoral corporations control everything, and mainstream media is not to be trusted -- especially when its own investments are threatened.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the history of labor movements and strikes, plus the larger-than-life characters of Joseph Pulitzer, William Randolph Hearst, and a certain U.S. president who makes a cameo at the end. There really was a newsboys' strike, and you could fact-check the parts about it this movie gets wrong. Newsies also proposes, loud and clear, that despite its supposed watchdog role, the media is just as corporate as any other business -- and just as nasty and unethical when its interests are threatened. Of course, unions can misbehave as well, for the same reasons, but you don't see that here. How do we look at the media and at unions today?

Movie details

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