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Annie (Disney - TV)

review by Anthony D.

 

Not Rated

Studio: Disney

Stars: Kathy Bates, Victor Garber, Audra McDonald, Alan Cumming, Kristen Chenoweth and Alicia Morton as Annie.

Genre: Musical

Director: Rob Marshall

Retail Price: $29.99

Features: Wonderful World Of Disney Trailer

Specs: 1.33:1 Full Screen, Dolby Digital 5.0 English, Chapter Search (27 Chapters)

Disney meets Broadway in this 1999 made-for-television movie adaptation of 1977's blockbuster Broadway musical; itself an incarnation of the long-running comic strip Little Orphan Annie. The show that gave us the now-standard anthem of optimism, "Annie" enjoyed a Tony-Award winning run on the New York stage, garnered a armload of Awards, and continues to delight audiences around the world with various touring companies and amateur productions.

Set against the Depression era's New York City, Annie is a spunk-filled ward of Miss Hannigan's Home for Girls, with aspirations to find the parents who abandoned her. Annie's only clues to finding her parents is a half-heart locket left around her neck and a note from those parents saying that they will return. Annie finds ways to escape the clutches of the little-girl hating matron of the home, but as fate would have it, is constantly returned to her guardian. Until one day fate steps in and Annie is chosen to be THE orphan for multi-billionaire Oliver Warbuck's Christmas season.

While Annie is ensconced at the Warbuck's 5th Avenue Mansion, enjoying the high life, Miss Hannigan hatches a scheme with her con artist brother to pose as Annie's parents and collect the reward money Warbucks has promised.

Full of memorable songs and comic book characterizations, "Annie" is suitable family fare.

This full-frame transfer is delightfully colorful, though not filled with a "comic-book" look. The colors are true, fabric designs delight the eyes with only occasional moiring. The design of the film is often understated with muted colors standing in for the feel of the film's time frame. And although, not bedecked with the standard Annie curls, Alicia Morton's hair is suitably red and finely detailed. I found the image to be slightly cramped especially during major dance sequences (Chapter 10: I Think I'm Gonna Like it Here) which often cuts off dancers on either sides of the screen. Night scenes sparkle with very little grain present. Contrast is especially good, with no aliasing. Next to M-G-M's "Singin' in the Rain," this is quickly becoming my favorite full-frame color DVD.

"Annie'"s soundtrack is presented in a sumptuous 5.0 Dolby Digital Surround track - - and the orchestrations glisten! Why no .1 is present is certainly beyond me. Despite the lack of .1, each instrument of the orchestra is given a chance to shine through. Listen to the honky-tonk piano in Chapter 8 (Little Girls). Horns blare, as they should with nary a trace of wobbling. Dialogue is firmly centered, and surrounds are used for ambient sound as well as music.

Whoop-de-do!! Disney continues to charge premium prices for packages lacking in extras. One whole "Wonderful World of Disney" trailer, which looks like a television commercial, whereas the the film itself boasts a beautiful transfer. Not even talent files...nada...zip.

I was prepared to NOT like this as much as I do. "Annie" was the first Broadway musical I saw in New York City, with it's original sparkling cast, and that was a magical night...whoever thought that a show about a moppet & her mutt could be a winning night of musical theater? Then came John Huston's travesty of a film...the less said of that the better. This presentation of "Annie" more than makes up for the fact that John Huston once tried to film the same material with overblow results.

Veteran Broadway choreographer Rob Marshall has made an impressive film directing debut, albeit, he is aided and abetted by a cast of Broadway veterans, and in the film's coup-de-grace: Andrea McArdle - -Broadway's ORIGINAL Annie! Although only onscreen for one-minute, Andrea sings one chorus of "N.Y.C." (Chapter 12) as "Star-to-Be," belting beautifully. Scattered amongst the cast are three-time Tony Award Winner Audra McDonald (Carousel, Master Class, Ragtime) in a brave bit of color-blind casting, Tony Award Winners Alan Cumming (Cabaret, and film roles in Spice World, Titus) and Kristen Chenoweth (You're a Good Man Charlie Brown) camping and vamping hysterically as the comic villains. Victor Garber carries himself well as Oliver Warbucks, and the Annie of Alicia Morton is never cloying.

Granted well-deserved top billing is the Miss Hannigan of Academy Award winning (Misery) actress Kathy Bates. This is a far cry from "Misery," and Bates proves to have a legit singing voice as well as a flair for dance I wouldn't have thought possible. Her comedic timing is a joy to behold, and could have been the definitive interpretation of the role, except that the screenwriters chose to eliminate all dark elements of the script, including any political overtones. Thus we are given a non-alcoholic Miss Hannigan, happy homeless people (!) - - on stage they had a biting up-tempo song thanking Herbert Hoover for their present condition - - and a Franklin Delano Roosevelt who only appears as a Deus Ex Machina plot device. In the stage play, it is Annie who gives Roosevelt the idea for his "New Deal" and teaches him that, "The sun'll come out, tomorrow," which he promptly has his illustrious Cabinet members singing! As this is "DISNEY presents Annie," I'm reminded of the Disneyfication of Times Square: sure looks and sounds nice, but shouldn't city streets have a smudge or two of grit?

"Annie" is suitable family fare, though musical theater mavens might want to concentrate on the musical numbers, and use the Chapter Skip button often, after all is said and done, how many of us really need to hear "Tomorrow" one more time? With the talents involved, this is one disc that should be in the libraries of musical fans everywhere.
(Editor's Note: Amazon.com has been offering this disc for a huge discount at 50 percent off, a mere 14.99! To get this price of the disc, simply use the search button at the end of this review for a great discount on a great TV adaption.)

(4/5, NOT included in final score)

(4/5)

(4.5/5)

(.5/5)

(4/5, NOT an average)

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