Annie – 4 Stars (Excellent)
“Annie” is certainly one of the most uplifting, harrowing and positive Broadway musicals in movie history.
Even if you did not see Annie as a moviegoer, you would recognize the key words to its award-winning signature song “Tomorrow”: “The sun’ll come out Tomorrow, so you gotta hang on till Tomorrow. Come what may. Tomorrow, Tomorrow, I love ya, Tomorrow. You’re only a day away”.
Based on Thomas Meehan’s musical score of the enormously successful stage play, and Carol Sobieski’s screenplay, Annie was directed by John Houston in his first and last effort directing a movie musical. None of their talent was wasted.
A tip of the hat to Carol Sobieski’s effort with the screenplay, as I believe her feminine touch had much to do with the finished product. Annie is reminiscent of Harold Gray’s comic strip Annie, but there was nothing from the original comic strip that could have been used in the musical. Sobieski also wrote “Fried Green Tomatoes”.
Set in the depths of The Great Depression of the 1930s, Annie’s life among orphans in miserable conditions changes dramatically when she is selected to spend a week in the mansion of Oliver Warbucks, a wealthy munitions industrialist driven only by making money and intent on polishing his capitalist image.
Annie (played superbly by Aileen Quinn) becomes an immediate attention-getter and an irresistible force by being simple and unassuming in a situation of opulence, power and influence dominated by Daddy Warbucks (Albert Finney is at his best in this role). She wins the hearts of everyone in the house plus Grace Farrell (Ann Reinking), Warbucks’ right-hand assistant.
Despite everyone’s growing affection for Annie’s childlike simplicity, Daddy Warbucks’ move to adopt Annie encounters a trauma as Annie is only concerned about eventually finding her parents so she can be part of a real family.
Enter the severe, unkind orphanage proprietor Miss Hannigan (an excellent character-acting performance by the one and only Carol Burnett), her brother and bad guy Rooster Hannigan (Tim Curry) and his girlfriend Lily St. Regis (Bernadette Peters). They conspire to kidnap Annie and Rooster tries to kill her. After some tense moments during great filmmaking, Daddy Warbucks’ capable enforcer Punjab (Geoffrey Holder) comes to the rescue.
Do not miss the role of fellow orphan Molly (played by Toni Ann Gisondi), the helicopter Daddy Warbucks flies around in, and the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes. Both Carol Burnett and Aileen Quinn were nominated for Best Actress Golden Globe Awards.
The original stage play Annie premiered in 1977, won the Tony Award for the Best Musical the same year, and closed in 1983 after 2,377 performances. Annie hit the big screen in 1982, and remains a classic among Broadway’s musicals. The rights to Annie were sold in 1978 for $9.5 million ($30+ million in today’s dollars), a record that still stands.
Annie is everything that is good and right about a Broadway musical that becomes a movie. Annie teaches the adults around her about the importance of love, family, thoughtfulness, kindness, gratitude, understanding, optimism and hope, everything that was absent in her life as an orphan.