Monday, July 29, 2013

Movie Review: Annie (1982)

Stars: 3 out of 5
Pros: Some good song and dance numbers
Cons: Most of the changes from the plot don't work.
The Bottom Line:
Some changes from play
A few work well but others
Really weaken film

Better Than I Remember, But Not That Great a Version of the Musical

It’s been over a decade since I last watched the original movie version of Annie.  I have never been that impressed with it, preferring the 1999 TV remake since it sticks closer to the play.  However, I recently sat down and watched it again.  It’s still not great, but it’s not horrible.

The plot follows the familiar story of Annie (Aileen Quinn), an orphan in 1930’s New York.  Certain her parents are out there, she has a habit of breaking out of the orphanage and running away from Miss Hannigan (Carol Burnett), the woman who is supposed to be watching her and the other orphans.

Annie’s world turns around when she is invited to spend a week with Oliver Warbucks, the billionaire (Albert Finney).  Soon, Warbucks wants to adopt Annie.  But are her parents still out there somewhere?

One problem I’ve always had with the play and the remake, as much as I love them both, is the idea that the orphanage is so small.  Oh, I get cast constraints and what not.  Here, there are plenty more orphans, which make the time spent there seem more real.  And it also means that “It’s a Hard-Knock Life” gets a better dance sequence.  I like it.

I also like the song and dance number “We Got Annie” that the staff sings when they learn Warbucks intends to adopt Annie.  (In an interesting bit of trivia, this is a re-working of a song originally intended for an early version of the play.)

The Asp and Punjab both make appearances.  As a fan of the comic strip in my childhood days, I enjoyed seeing them.

One of my favorite scenes from the play has always been the scene with Annie and Warbucks at the radio station during “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile.”  I loved getting to see it here.

And for the most part the movie is fun.  But when it goes wrong, does it ever go wrong.

First of all, there’s Carol Burnett’s Miss Hannigan.  Here, she’s a drunk and a mean one.  Not only do I not find her funny (which I’m sure was part of the goal), I just find her cringe worthy.  What a waste of talent.  And don’t get me started on the song she sings with Warbucks when Warbucks arrives to get the adoption papers signed.

Then there’s the song “Let’s Go to the Movies.”  It replaces “NYC” from the play, and I find the original a better song story wise.  Then there’s the part where they show up clips of the movie.  Sorry, but that does nothing but slow down the story.  Just move on already.

Annie’s dog Sandy gets a larger part in the movie, something I love since again it’s a nod to the comic strip.  However, there are two songs sung about him, and I don’t particularly like either of them.

Then there’s the climax.  It’s so over the top it’s stupid.  I know it was designed to build suspense, but the climax of the play where the villains are out smarted is so much better.

Plus there’s the way they treat the show’s signature song.  We get Annie singing “Tomorrow” during the opening credits.  Then she leads the reprise in the second act.  Um, hello.  There’s a reason that song is so well known.  It is the heart and soul of the character at the beginning, and the movie really does lose something for leaving it out.  And when it shows up later, it doesn’t have the same amount of fun.

The acting is fine.  Rounding out the cast are the likes of Tim Curry and Bernadette Peters as Rooster Hannigan and Lily St. Regis.  They are a blast.  Many of the adults are slightly broad in their performances, but it’s not so over the top as to be annoying and it actually does work.

But really, the flaws will always keep this movie from being a favorite.  If this is the only version of Annie you’ve seen, you’ll probably enjoy it.  But those who love the play will be disappointed with the changes made.

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