ANNIE - Golden Oldies On the Big Screen
For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020
EDITOR’S NOTE: The flawed but entertaining big-screen version of the comic strip-turned-Broadway musical ‘Annie’ returns to theaters this weekend, courtesy of Turner Classic Movies and Fathom Events. You can catch it in various Cinemark and Megaplex Theaters around the valley at noon and 4 p.m. matinees on Sunday, Nov. 22, and Monday, Nov. 23. My review was published on June 18, 1982.
I don’t know which is more elephantine, the movie itself or the massive pre-release publicity, but “Annie,” is here at last.
And most of the criticisms the national press have been giving it are on the money — John Huston’s often stark, gritty directorial style does contrast with the brightness of the sets and dance style; the movie does often seem overblown and underdeveloped; and Carol Burnett’s nasty Miss Hannigan does abruptly become too “nice” at the end.
But one thing many national critics are wrong about is whether “Annie” has heart. I happen to think it does, and I think you’ll feel uplifted and ready to sing “Tomorrow” as you leave the theater.
“Annie” is a spirited return to the “traditional” musical we saw much of in the 1940s, ’50s and early ’60s – and it is a welcome return indeed.
The story is well-known, based on the Broadway hit (in turn based on the popular comic strip). Those who have seen the stage show (I have not) will notice some changes, most notably four new songs, a meeting between Hannigan and Warbucks (Burnett & Albert Finney) and the finale having been changed from Christmas to the Fourth of July.
But none are fatal to the film, flawed as it is.
Aileen Quinn, left, Carol Burnett, 'Annie' (1982)
Aileen Quinn is delightful in the title role, though her thunder is stolen occasionally by an even more endearing youngster, Toni Ann Gisondi as Molly, the lead orphan.
Albert Finney lends an interesting characterization to billionaire “Daddy” Warbucks, who adopts Annie for one week and then embarks on a hunt for her parents, who dropped her off at the orphanage with the promise they’d return.
And Bernadette Peters, Tim Curry and Ann Reinking all lend fine support in underdeveloped roles.
But among the adults, it is Carol Burnett who steals the show. Her Miss Hannigan, the man-hungry orphanage mistress who is seldom seen without a drink in her hand, is a wonderful comic portrait. With more than her share of sight gags (many of which seem improvised), this is without question her finest big-screen role (“Friendly Fire” steals the small-screen honors), and she’s hilarious.
There are obvious comparisons to “Oliver!” the Oscar-winning musical from 1968, and “Annie” is not nearly as good as that one, but Quinn is charming and, as a whole, so is the film.
Albert Finney, Ann Reinking, 'Annie' (1982)
Some of the numbers, “It’s a Hard-Knock Life,” “Maybe” and “Easy Street” are very memorable and while the choreography (by Arlene Phillips of “Can’t Stop the Music”) is often more athletic than dance-oriented, most of it is very good.
Generally, the comic scenes work extremely well, though many of the dramatic scenes seem rushed. The climactic chase sequence ending with a helicopter rescue uses stunt doubles rather poorly, and extremely wasted throughout the film is Geoffrey Holder, a very talented dancer, as Punjab. (That comic-strip character and The Asp, played here by Roger Minami, were missing from the play.)
There is also a ridiculous nod to the supposed need for a PG rating, with a swear word repeated twice in that climax, and a Busby Berkeley-style number, “Let’s Go to the Movies,” including a condensed version of the Greta Garbo film “Camille” (which was actually released in 1936 — a little late for these proceedings), just seems to go on and on.
Aside from those complaints, however, “Annie” fills the bill as an ingratiating piece of family entertainment that adults and kids can enjoy together. The flaws are far outweighed by the pluses, and your movie dollar will be well spent on this musical treat.