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MOVIE INFO

Director:
John Huston
Cast:
Albert Finney, Carol Burnett, Ann Reinking, Tim Curry, Bernadette Peters, Aileen Quinn, Geoffrey Holder
Writing Credits:
Thomas Meehan (play), Carol Sobieski (screenplay), Harold Gray (comic strip "Little Orphan Annie")

Tagline:
The movie of "Tomorrow".

Synopsis:
Annie is the story of a plucky, red-haired girl who dreams of life outside her dreary orphanage. One day, Annie (Aileen Quinn) is chosen to stay for one week with the famous billionaire "Daddy" Warbucks (Albert Finney). One week turns into many and the only person standing in the way of Annie's fun is Miss Hannigan (Carol Burnett), the unpredictable ruler of the orphanage. Enjoy the zany adventures and experiences of the irrepressible Annie as she charms everyone she encounters, including Miss Hannigan.

Box Office:
Budget
$50 million.
Opening Weekend
$510.632 thousand on 14 screens.
Domestic Gross
$57.059 million.

MPAA:
Rated PG

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Fullscreen 1.33:1
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English DTS 5.1
Spanish Dolby 2.0
French Dolby 2.0
Subtitles:
English
French
Spanish
Portuguese
Korean
Chinese
Thai
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 127 min.
Price: $24.96
Release Date: 1/20/2004

Bonus:
• Play “It’s a Hard-Knock Life” Music Video
• “The Age of Annie” Trivia Game
• Sing Along with Annie
• Act Along with Annie
• “My Hollywood Adventure with Aileen Quinn” Featurette
• Trailers


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RELATED REVIEWS


Annie: Special Anniversary Edition (1982)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 6, 2004)

All of us have our regrets and can look back at parts of our lives and wonder, “What was I thinking?” Actually, that sentiment covers an awful lot of my life, but no aspect more so than the affection for musicals that I held when I was a kid.

By my 12th birthday in 1979, I’d seen the light and I turned toward the forces of good (music) forever - the Beatles saved me - but prior to that, my enjoyment of the era’s pop/rock tunes was mixed with fondness for then-current stage musicals. I went to see quite a few of these with my parents, and greatly enjoyed works like The Wiz.

Among the list of favorites was Annie, the musical adaptation of the Little Orphan Annie cartoon. It’s hard to remember what an odd project this seemed to be at the time; nowadays everything is adapted into something or other, but I think a musical comic strip was pretty unique when Annie appeared in 1977.

Whatever that case may be, the show clearly became a huge success and talk soon turned to the inevitable film version of the stage production. I’m sure this rendition seemed like a sure-fire hit, especially when the enormous popularity of 1978’s movie edition of Grease proved that musicals could still generate boffo box office.

Granted, any number of fairly-unsuccessful movie musicals - like that same year’s The Wiz - argued otherwise, but Annie started its journey to film and finally appeared in the summer of 1982. With legendary director John Huston at the reins and boasting a solid cast of professionals like Albert Finney, Carol Burnett, Bernadette Peters, Tim Curry, Ann Reinking and others, plus 10-year-old newcomer Aileen Quinn - the winner of a massive talent search - in the title role, how could it fail?

Pretty easily. The movie wasn’t a financial flop but it didn’t generate as much “buzz” as the producers hoped, and its $57 million gross was nothing to cause much excitement. In a busy summer - with much more successful films like ET the Extra-Terrestrial, Star Trek II and Poltergeist on screens - Annie came and went without much fuss.

More than 20 years later - man, do I feel old! - Annie seems just as limp and silly as it did in 1982. As is the case with many musicals, the storyline barely exists. We find Little Orphan Annie (Quinn) stuck in a New York City orphanage with a group of other cute young girls. Despite their bleak lives - they’re constantly hounded by nasty house mother Miss Hannigan (Burnett) - Annie maintains a consistently-cheery disposition and always feels certain that better times are right around the corner; she just knows that her parents will soon come and retrieve her from that nasty orphanage!

Some sunshine eventually enters her life when billionaire Oliver Warbucks (Finney) decides to host an orphan for a week as a PR stunt. His assistant Grace Farrell (Reinking) picks the irrepressible Annie, and she inevitably wins over gruff “Daddy” Warbucks and all of his staff - which apparently includes President Franklin Roosevelt (Edward Herrmann).

Warbucks decides to help Annie find her birth parents, but inevitably, scam artists arrive on the scene in the form of Hannigan, her brother Rooster (Curry), and his girlfriend Lily (Peters). Also inevitably, all ends well as the baddies are punished and Warbucks decides to adopt Annie.

While I generally try to avoid too much plot information because I hate to reveal “spoilers”, I took the chance here because - well, c’mon! It’s Annie! It’s not like I’m spilling the beans about The Crying Game or The Sixth Sense. The film features a simplistic plot that exists solely as an excuse to showcase some musical numbers.

And that it does, though I couldn’t stand a single tune heard in the movie. Bizarrely, the stage version’s most popular number - the dreadful and ubiquitous “Tomorrow” - loses its solo performance by Annie and is transformed into a sing-along for Annie, Warbucks, FDR and Eleanor! Huh? At least the filmmakers had the good taste to keep the president in his chair; it wouldn’t have surprised me to see them find some way to make FDR dance.

“Good taste” is a commodity in short supply through this nauseating film. I frequently had to fight the urge to slap myself; actually, I wanted to slap Quinn due to her disgustingly forced chipper and cute presence, but since that would be impossible, I just had to hit myself instead. Easily the least palatable scenes in the film are those in the orphanage; there we must confront a slew of precocious and “adorable” youngsters, not just one with a bad perm. I like kids a lot, but not these kinds of artificial show-biz creations who couldn’t take a breath without permission from their stage mothers.

One might think that the remainder of the cast would save the project, but they’re rendered impotent in the horrible face of it all. Nothing can negate a) the saccharine-sweet tunes, and b) those damned kids! None of the adults are bad, really - Finney even manages a couple of minor laughs - but they can’t overcome the terror that is Aileen Quinn. They auditioned 8000 kids and she was the best they could do?!

Perhaps. I have to admit that Annie would have been a tough sell for me in any case. However, in my defense, I should relate that I’ve developed some grudging admiration for a few movie musicals; after all, I gave My Fair Lady and Chicago very positive review, and I even liked parts of West Side Story and The Sound Of Music. Unfortunately, Annie never remotely approaches that level. John Huston isn’t exactly a name I associate with musicals; how he got wrapped up in this clunker is anybody’s case. Whatever the case, Annie is a perfectly dreadful dud.


The DVD Grades: Picture C/ Audio B (DTS) B- (Dolby)/ Bonus D+

Annie appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Boy, fans of this flick just can’t catch a break. The original DVD from 2000 presented the film in its correct 2.35:1 aspect ratio but suffered from some weird framing that cropped parts of the picture. Now Columbia-Tristar put out the movie again but dropped the widescreen image totally in favor of this harshly panned-and-scanned chop job.

In addition to being cropped, Annie presented fairly erratic picture quality. Sharpness seemed adequate for the most part, but it varied. Most shows looked acceptably concise and distinctive. However, more than a few moderately soft images appeared. I noticed no problems with jagged edges or moiré effects, and I also detected no signs of edge enhancement. As for print flaws, the movie often looked rather grainy, and occasional examples of specks and other defects popped up throughout the film. I noticed some marks, grit, and other small issues, though these remained generally modest.

Colors usually seemed decent, but they never rose above that level. At their best, the tones were moderately clear and vivid. However, the hues often appeared somewhat bland. Black levels appeared a bit drab and they remained somewhat flat throughout the film. Shadow detail was passable but no better. Low-light shots looked generally visible but could seem somewhat murky at times. Given the age of the material, Annie presented a fairly mediocre image.

While the original Annie DVD included only Dolby Surround 2.0 audio, this version featured both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 mixes. Though the pair mostly seemed similar, I preferred the latter. I’ll discuss the latter first and then relate the differences I discerned.

The soundfield stuck strongly to the forward channels for most of the movie. Not surprisingly, music dominated the mix, and the songs and score displayed positive stereo imaging throughout the film. I also heard a lot of good usage of effects from the side channels; these made the track more lively and engaging, and the sounds panned nicely from speaker to speaker. The surrounds largely restricted themselves to general support of the music; the rears offered reinforcement of the tunes but presented little other audio.

One problem with the track related to the pan and scan transfer. At times localization seemed off, as elements came from the side although visually they appeared in the center. That appeared connected to the cropped image. In the original widescreen presentation, the elements likely came from the logical side spots in the spectrum, but the re-imaging caused by the pan and scan version altered their visual placement. I didn’t really fault the mix for this, but it did cause some distractions.

Sound quality seemed erratic but largely good for its era. Dialogue sometimes appeared a bit thin and reedy, and a little edginess occurred at times. Still, the speech was generally natural and distinct. Integration issues occurred because of discrepancies between dialogue and singing; when we jumped from crooning to talking in the middle of a song, the two didn’t connect well.

Effects were similarly bland at times, but they generally seemed acceptably accurate and clean. Some distortion occurred, but not much. Music varied a bit more. Music was the most important element of the mix, and the songs and score mostly sounded pretty good. At times they were somewhat shrill, but usually the material seemed pretty clear and lively.

So how did the Dolby Digital mix differ from the DTS one? The latter seemed more active and richer. The DTS version used the surrounds more fully, especially in how it presented the songs. Those broadened well to the rears for the DTS track but seemed more firmly stuck in the front for the Dolby version. In addition, the DTS edition came across as richer and showed stronger low-end response. The variations didn’t seem extreme, but I still gave the nod to the DTS track.

Billed as a “Special Anniversary Edition”, one might expect a nice roster of extras on Annie. One won’t get them, as this disc comes free of any substantial supplements. To tout this sucker as a special edition seems like a cruel joke for fans.

What do we get? We launch with a music video from the teen pop group Play. They do their update on “It’s the Hard-Knock Life”. They do a dance pop rendition of the tune. The video alternates their dancing and lip-synching with movie clips. It’s a lifeless take on the song and a dull video. Too bad the DVD didn’t include Jay Z’s “Hard Knock”, since it famously and creatively sampled the Annie track.

Next we find a trivia game called “The Age of Annie”. This presents some clips from the movie and asks us insanely easy questions like “In which decade does Annie take place?” It also gives us some information about the era and elements seen in the movie that provide basic knowledge. Some moderately interesting tidbits show up, but for the most part, this isn’t a very strong piece.

A retrospective featurette, My Hollywood Adventure with Aileen Quinn lasts 12 minutes and two seconds. We see and hear from an adult Quinn as she chats about her Annie experiences. She gets into her early interest in performing, her tests for the film and her casting, the production, and publicity stints. Some interesting archival bits pop up along the way; we see parts of Quinn’s screen-test and her initial press conference. Quinn divulges a few decent notes about the production as well, but mostly she just gives us a glossy and puffy chat about the flick. It’s not a terrible featurette, but it doesn’t seem terribly useful or informative. (By the way, Quinn still can’t act, but she’s kind of cute.)

Insult to injury time: all of the movie clips seen in “Adventure” come in the flick’s original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Ouch!

Sing Along with Annie! provides a Karaoke feature. It allows you to select any of three songs: “Maybe”, “Tomorrow”, and “It’s the Hard-Knock Life”. You can play these with or without vocals, and the DVD supplies the lyrics for you. Act Along with Annie! starts with an introduction from a grown-up Aileen Quinn. This basically offers a Karaoke version of acting. It’ll let you try out three different scenes with or without Annie’s dialogue.

Finally, trailers includes five different ads. We get promos for Daddy Day Care. Matilda, The Baby-Sitters Club, Stuart Little 2, and The Swan Princess Collection. Oddly, no trailer for Annie itself appears, although one showed up on the original DVD. The new disc also lacks the talent files and “original advertising” found on the prior release, and it loses that set’s booklet; the latter included some good historical notes.

By the way, could somebody tell me what anniversary this “Special Anniversary Edition” commemorates? The movie came out 22 years before its release, while the stage musical debuted 27 years earlier. I guess this is supposed to be timed to the comic strip’s 80th anniversary – it first appeared in 1924 – but that’s a fairly loose connection. When I see “anniversary” touted on a DVD, I assume it ties to the movie, not the inspiration for the flick.

Annie remains a dud because the movie itself is an insufferably cute and cloying concoction. How so much talent wasted itself on this mess is a mystery to me. The DVD offers fairly bland pan and scan picture quality with relatively positive audio and a weak roster of supplements. Fans of Annie need to get a copy of the old DVD. The new one lacks the appropriate aspect ratio, and the extras definitely don’t merit much attention. This “Special Anniversary Edition” is a misfire.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.3513 Stars Number of Votes: 37
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