Aug 23, 2013

[Movies] Annie (1982)

Continuing my series of birthday year movie reviews, I figured it would be nice to have a musical as part of this list given how much I love the genre. Luckily 1982 did include at least one notable movie musical - this being the adaptation of the popular play Annie. And while this particular one isn't exactly in my top 10, it's still one that none of us can really get away from given its general popularity and wide appeal.

But this darned play with its sometime saccharine singing actually stands the test of time. It's one of those musicals that gets made fun of given its obvious child-orientation but beyond that initial impression, it's still a pretty impressive show. And this particular movie adaptation remains my favorite despite the later TV editions that have come out over the years.

And come on, it still had quite the stellar cast! Aileen Quinn is quite the little powerhouse and of course we'll never quite get past Carol Burnett's rendition of "Little Girls" - but please, I'm getting ahead of myself in this review.

Synopsis: Annie is the 1982 movie adaptation of the stage musical, which was based on the Little Orphan Annie comic strip from 1924. The movie was directed by John Huston with a screenplay by Carol Sobieski. The movie had been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Production Design and Best Song Score and its Adaptation.

It's 1933 and we get to meet Annie (Aileen Quinn), who is one of many orphans housed at the Hudson Street Orphanage in New York City. She firmly believes that he parents had left her in New York and remains determined to find them one day - including staging period escape attempts from the orphanage. But Miss Hannigan (Carol Burnett), the rather cruel supervisor in charge of the orphanage, catches her every time and keeps all the kids busy doing all the work while she remains highly inebriated.

One of her more elaborate escape attempts leads to her finding a dog named Sandy, whom she takes back with her to the orphanage (as she is once again found). This time though Miss Hannigan has had enough and threatens to send her off to a sausage factory. But before she can send Annie away, Grace Farrell (Ann Reinking), secretary to the billionaire Oliver Warbucks (Albert Finney) arrives stating that Mr. Warbucks intends to have an orphan stay at his home as part of a PR campaign. Naturally Grace picks Annie, and the real story begins.

Now this movie did the right thing by tapping into the Broadway talent pool and managed to bring on some rather amazing talent for this movie. I'll go on and on about Carol Burnett as Miss Hannigan - the woman is just stellar in the role. But we also have to note that Albert Finney and Ann Reinking are both Broadway stars, plus the movie included the likes of Tim Curry and Bernadette Peters!

But the real stars of this show are the little girls who can certainly sing and dance among the best of them. Sure, Aileen Queen can get a little hammy in a childish way, but her voice is just phenomenal. Not many young girls can belt like she did in this movie. Then bring in all the other young performers and each number is a wonderfully choreographed delight. The acting could have been better, yes, but the performances were great.

The movie does suffer from the classic challenge of the need for more seamless transitions between the performance numbers and the talking bits. We see this time and time again in movie adaptations of musicals when the dialog somehow drags on (depending on direction) and thus we can't wait for the next musical number to roll along. Oh well.

Annie remains one of those movie musical that folks end up leaving on the TV for their kids to watch but not realize the weird message that Miss Hannigan sends to younger viewers. The songs are memorable and are the stuff of kiddie beauty pageants and talent contests worldwide. But believe it or not, I still think this is the best movie adaptation of this play. Things actually get worse with the others. I still rate the movie as 3.5 dancing, cleaning orphans out of a possible 5.

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