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    Annie (1999)

    Buena Vista/Buena Vista . R4 . COLOR . 86 mins . G . PAL


    I’ve always wondered at the logic of the remake. Sometimes it’s a good thing and we get a kickarse new version of something (like The Fugitive or Charlie’s Angels).

    But sometimes the original version was so good there’s no way it can be bettered (look at Psycho vs. Psycho 2000 or whatever it was called).

    And then there are the fringe dwellers; those films that are remade in almost exactly the same style and quality as the original. Annie, remade for TV in 1999, is such a film.

    It’s a sweet enough story, though well hackneyed by now. A sweet young orphan is living a Hard Knock Life under the delusion her parents are coming to get her from the orphanage she’s lived in since she was a baby. When she is singled out to spend Christmas with the richest man in the world, Oliver Warbucks, she does so and soon wins the grumpy old bastard over with her cute and winning ways. However, she wants to find her folks and Warbucks stakes the cause for 50G to anyone who can prove they’re Annie’s parents.

    "It’s a Hard. Knock. Life."

    The sinister Miss Hannigan, iron-fisted ruler of the Orphanarium, gets her brother and between them they pretend to be Annie’s long lost parents to snag the coin and bury the kid. Can Annie, the plucky little go-getter, outsmart them? I’m hardly giving the ending away in this Disney vehicle by saying, ‘Yes, she bloody well can’.

    There’s another curious thing about this character in particular. Adapted for the stage yonks ago, this play has been performed numerous times, yet no one seems to remember this was once a simple comic strip drawn by Harold Gray that appeared in newspapers in the mid 1920s. In fact, it was one of the very first strips to challenge the notion that comic strips had to be funny. So in one way, this is a ground-breaking little girl who brings the sunny side of life to all she meets.

    But on the other, she’s constantly being exploited to make ever more money by appearing in Broadway productions and movies remade for TV and released on the DVD market.

    That’s the thing about orphans. They got no folks to look out for ‘em. Still, let the House of Mouse take her under their wing. They’ve probably got more money than Daddy Warbucks these days anyway.


    Made for TV in 1999, the picture is presented in good old 4:3 (so, naturally, no 16:9 enhancement). The picture is fairly sharp and blacks are mostly true. Occasionally the deeper colours appear in a faint sepia wash that I’ve noticed on some other Buena Vista transfers like Felicity. However, the colours brighten up in the Warbucks castle, but before this there is a heavily muted colour palette chock full of drab earth tones to portray the misery of Orphanarium life. Shadow detail too is a little murky for the most part, but the dancing butlers (or haha, ballet valets) all look peachy. I made up that joke about the valets. Good, wasn’t it?


    Buena Vista’s standard Dolby Digital 5.1 surround mix does the trick here, although it doesn’t do much by way of surround use. The subwoofer, however, keeps the constant music of the production happily throbbing away to itself. Sound effects are okay and the dialogue is all spoken clearly. The songs have obviously been recorded elsewhere and mimed during the shooting, but they manage to sound alright most of the time. The music of the film is, of course, mostly pretty chipper, and it does sound good throughout. I’m no fan of musicals, but one thing that’s always decent, especially so in this production, is the quality of the lyrics. Much better than most of the stuff you’ll hear on the radio today. Musicals always manage to cram tons of imagery into the lyrics and I like that a lot, even if in only a kid’s musical.


    It’s a Hard. Knock. Life.



    Little Orphan Annie, as the strip was originally titled, is pretty much a household name. Everyone loves the story of the poor little orphan with a heart of gold electroplate who gets it converted to 24 karat by her Daddy Warbucks. It’s a fine film, however there really was no need for a rehashing of the original 1982 film in which Albert Finney chameleonised himself yet again in a brilliant performance as Warbucks himself.

    However, who can stop the Disney Empire from doing whatever it likes? Here they do alright, though the highlight is, of course, Kathy Bates as Miss Hannigan. Newcomer and terminally cute Alicia Morton does a bang up job for her introduction to film performance as well though.

    The kids will dig it, I enjoyed it, and parents shouldn’t have too much trouble watching it, though it doesn’t really bring anything new to the table.

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      And I quote...
    "An almost filmed stage adaptation brings us the classic story but nothing truly new to the table here. Kids will love it though."
    - Jules Faber
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          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
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          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Surrounds:
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          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
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