Written by: Carol Sobieski, based on the stage play by Thomas Meehan, which was in turn based on the comic strip by Harold Gray
Directed by: John Huston
Starring: Aileen Quinn, Albert Finney, Carol Burnett, Ann Reinking, Tim Curry
- Music video: “It’s a Hard Knock Life” by Play
- Trivia game
- Sing-along and act-along features
- “My Hollywood Adventure with Aileen Quinn” featurette
Released by: Columbia Tristar
Anamorphic: Nope; fullscreen only.
My Advice: Wait for a real version.
[ad#longpost]It’s New York of the 1930s. Annie (Quinn) is a red-headed girl with enough pluck for an army who’s stuck in an orphanage run by the comical harridan, Miss Hannigan (Burnett). When she manages to meet up with a billionaire, Daddy Warbucks (Finney), her fortunes seem to turn. However, Hannigan won’t let her go and contrives a scheme to steal the girl…and a great deal of money too.
Annie the film is a lot like Annie the character–very hard to dislike. The whole thing’s just so damnably cute and the songs are infectious, designed to get caught in your head like they were designed with musical barbs on the end of them. The musical numbers are staged to perfection and what kid doesn’t want to go bounding around singing “It’s a Hard Knock Life?” Well, none after listening to Play butcher the song, but we’re not to that part of the review yet.
The acting is divine, with Burnett having probably her finest hour as Miss Hannigan, playing the part so well that even the more recent version with Kathy Bates in the role could not compete. Finney plays the cold-hearted industrialist capable of melting for Annie–and it’s easy to see why with Quinn in the role. It’s easy to believe her in the role, and hell, I didn’t even know that was a wig. Oh well.
With musicals set for a rebound (finally) thanks to Moulin Rouge and Chicago, you’d think that a “Special Anniversary Edition” would be…well, special. Sadly, it’s anything but. First up–the entire thing is geared towards eight year olds. There’s not a single item on here that’s easy for anyone over the age of twelve to watch without being overcome by cheese.
Because of the misguided notion that “family friendly” means “not widescreen” (or maybe it means they have tiny televisions, who knows), we’re stuck with a full screen version of the film. Now, full screen is reprehensible enough on regular movies–but on a musical? With big dance numbers? It’s downright ludicrous. And adding a kick in the balls to injury is the fact that in the sappy “My Hollywood Adventure” bit (sappy–but that’s not Quinn’s fault–she’s playing to the eight year olds, remember) all the snippets from the film…are in anamorphic widescreen. So they’re teasing you with how the film could have looked and the argument about family friendly goes right out the window when you think, “What, people will balk at a feature in widescreen but not the bits in the featurette?” This is inexcusable.
With that being said, it’s almost a waste to cover the rest of the disc, because the already puts it on the “ignore” list. But just to rub salt in the wound, the aforementioned Play video is probably one of the most excruciating cover songs you’ll hear in this decade. It’s them crucifying the song while prancing about in some weird “hip hop urchin” wear. No idea.
You also get the ability to sing along with some of the songs, with or without vocals, while following the bouncing ball. You can also say Annie’s dialogue over particular scenes. And there’s a trivia game about the 30s which is actually pretty informative…again, for eight year olds.
To sum, this is sad. Really, really sad. It’s a perfect example of a missed opportunity to do something that, for example, Pixar does with every release: create a family friendly disc that everybody can enjoy. Here, this is good if you meet the disc’s demographic, but everyone else should just stay the hell away. Maybe if they stay on the shelf in droves, the message will get across.
Note: A widescreen version of the film can be found on DVD used from Amazon.