Released 06/18/1982 Rated: PG
Out of all of the films I’m going to talk about today, I think this version is the one where we really get the most immersed in this world. Or at least it’s the one where I feel we get the entire picture. A full rendering of Annie’s life both at the orphanage and with Warbucks. We see how Hannigan treats the girls, and how Annie starts to soften the heart of a billionaire. Everything we need to make not only a good movie, but a convincing one. This includes Annie being a ball buster when it comes to bullies. Now they tried to show that a little in the ’99 version, but it’s only the one scene with Pepper, so it doesn’t feel like a true part of her character there, but here it does.
My favorite scene of the entire movie is the radio show. It’s always cool to get a behind the scenes look at something like an old radio show. How they did the sound effects like playing it up as if someone were walking into the room and slamming the door before walking over on the hardwood floor when it’s really carpet and they have a fake door to slam. But Albert Finney is the best part when he reads the script directions and even forgets that he’s on the radio and talks aside in his loud voice. “DROP PAGE… WARBUCKS CONTINUES…” Then he reads his entire script and realizing he just pitched a product goes “DID I JUST DO A COMMERCIAL?!”
The “Easy Street” number has a rough start. I can’t tell if it’s because they talk through the first verse or if it’s because it feels like it comes out of nowhere or if it’s the music itself, but it just doesn’t seem to work. And the slapstick throughout the number kinda keeps it from being the awesome number it should have been. Like in the ’99 version.
Released 11/07/1999 Rated: NR
I counted this version even though it’s a Wonderful World of Disney TV movie as it’s the one I grew up with. But for one small little tidbit, I think it’s perfect. There’s no real mark of the passage of time so we don’t get to witness Annie breaking down Warbucks and worming her way into his heart. They go out for a night on the town her first night there and then literally the next scene (after a commercial break) is Grace back in Hannigan’s office on Christmas Eve with adoption papers. It’s just kinda instantaneous.
Other than that, perfection. They rearranged the song placements and as a result the songs fit more seamlessly in the story than how they did in ’82. LOVE this cast! Kathy Bates, Victor Garber, Audra McDonald, Alan Cumming, and Kristen Chenoweth! AND the original Annie from the first run of the show on Broadway even makes an appearance as the Star-to-be in the Broadway show they go see in the “NYC” number. I absolutely love it when movies do this. Everyone is great and they sound even better. Even Alicia Morton did fantastic as Annie. Fun fact: it’s her version of the song “Tomorrow” they use in Deadpool 2. That’s crazy!
This movie kinda has that stage-play feel without the audience. Similar to Roger & Hammerstein’s Cinderella. Where the sets are very open for the dance numbers but it still feels like a realistic place instead of a limited stage. Not to mention that it feels as if the actors are really singing on camera instead of lip syncing. Definitely felt the lip syncing in the ’14 version.
Released 12/19/2014 Rated: PG
So I remember not being particularly impressed when the trailers for this version came out. Not that it looked bad, I was just only so-so interested. I liked that they were changing it up, but I could tell that this movie wasn’t aimed at me. And it wasn’t.
Let’s go ahead and get this out of the way. This movie was a remix of sorts on the brand as produced by Will and Jada Pinket Smith, and there’s nothing wrong with that. African-American Annie and Warbucks is cool. Modern day New York, nice. Warbucks changed from super busy and successful billionaire to a germaphobe and cell-phone company king named Stacks running for mayor, okay. Extra songs/re-imagining of classic songs, great! Different take on Rooster’s character, awesome. Harping on the point that she’s not an orphan but a foster kid, really? I mean, that was the whole point, right? Everyone keeps calling her an orphan and she fights back declaring that she does actually have parents only to find out at the end that she doesn’t. They changed that but not the fact that Miss Hannigan is a drunk? If you ask me they focused on the wrong thing here. This felt like a move to stay PC for the sake of being PC which irked me. Or may be I just felt like it was shoved down my throat too much. But whatever.
My only other issue, which happens to be both a minor plot hole and spoiler alert, is that Annie’s big secret is the fact that she can’t read. Okay, let’s think about this for a second. She’s ten. Which is what, fifth grade? Which means she’s passed tests in order advance in school. How is it possible that this child can’t read? And for that matter, if she can’t read, how does she know what her parents’ note says, much less that it was written on the back of a receipt where they ordered two cannoli at a specific restaurant? Like, I get where they wanted this plot point to end up, but come on. If she wasn’t in school, maybe I’d believe it, …maybe, but she does go to school, so it’s a problem.
Overall, this one is all right. The kids will like it. Being a fan of the original wasn’t enough to make me like this one, though. I can appreciate it for what it tried to do, but it didn’t worm it’s way into my heart like the others previously mentioned.