I wish I could offer an appreciative reassessment of this initially derided live-action musical, but I’m afraid there isn’t much here to defend. Borrowing heavily and clumsily from Annie in terms of narrative, and featuring a sneeringly cocky performance from a young Christian Bale (and possibly a career-worst one from Robert Duvall), Newsies tries to tell the story of an 1899 New York newsboy strike in rhythm and verse. Director Kenny Ortega manages some acrobatic dance numbers, but they seem oddly confined by the camera’s frame. (Perhaps the stage, where this would eventually turn up, was always the proper medium for it.) And aside from “King of New York,” there’s nothing musically here that’s particularly compelling. All in all, I prefer Ortega’s work in High School Musical 3: Senior Year.