At first glance, it looks like something Disney must have locked away in a vault 25 years ago: a splashy, wide-screen, all-singing-all-dancing musical about turn-of-the-century newsboys, with a cast of interchangeably bright- eyed, snub-nosed teenagers hoofing their way through studio sets and spouting G-rated wisecracks in their best show-biz-New York accents. To call Newsies ”old-fashioned” would be to understate the case: The movie just about fetishizes its own squareness. Directed and co-choreographed by Kenny Ortega, the film will probably appeal to parents more than their kids (too many plot twists), and it has been put together with just enough efficiency to qualify as an oddball labor of love. For all that, it’s hardly an accident that this sort of thing went out of style many eons ago. The relentless, rah-rah boosterism of Newsies feels hollow and slightly absurd; it no longer has any connection to the mood of the country. The movie stands as a textbook demonstration of why they don’t — and probably shouldn’t — make ’em like they used to.

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