Judge Patrick Naugle is never fully dressed without a smile.
A Blu-ray you can bet your bottom dollar on.
It's the Great Depression and the Hudson Street Orphanage is bustling with kids and one cranky supervisor: the often inebriated and cruelly abusive Agatha Hannigan (Carol Burnett, The Carol Burnett Show). One of Ms. Hannigan's most troublesome children is the newly acquired redhead Annie (Aileen Quinn, The Frog Prince), who attempts to escape and find her real parents. Annie is caught and put to work cleaning the orphanage, when billionaire bachelor Oliver Warbucks (Albert Finney, Big Fish) sends his secretary Grace (Anne Reinking, All That Jazz) to invite one of the Hudson Street kids to live with him, as a means of bolstering his charitable image. Against Hannigan's wishes, Grace selects Annie and ushers her into the lap of luxury, much to Warbucks' chagrin (he wanted a boy). Thus begins the quintessential redhead's whirlwind adventure. She'll discover her past, look ahead to a future with Daddy Warbucks (if she can win him over), survive an assassination attempt and two bumbling crooks (Tim Curry, The Rocky Horror Picture Show; Bernadette Peters, The Jerk), and fall in love with an adorable dog named Sandy!
Annie is one of those movies that instantly takes me back to being a kid. My sister loved it and I obviously absorbed more than I realized, despite having only sat through it twice all the way through. The things that stand out most are Carol Burnett as a terrifyingly funny Ms. Hannigan (as a kid, I remember her as imposing and scary), Tim Curry as Hannigan's conniving brother Rooster, Albert Finney as the bristly but lovable Daddy Warbucks, Tommy Meehan (The Producers) and Carol Sobieski's (Friend Green Tomatoes) story, and and the infectious nature of Martin Charnin (School of Rock) and Charles Strouse's (Shrek 2) songs like "Tomorrow" and "It's a Hard Knock Life" (soundtrack of my formative years).
Having not seen Annie in more than 20 years, I was curious if it would hold up. I'm happy to report it plays even better than I remember. This is a happy bouncy little musical that makes for a perfect Saturday afternoon matinee. One of the things that struck me is that this would be a perfect introduction to movie musicals for kids. Though there are some slightly disturbing moments (I'm telling you, Carol Burnett is funny in a very intimidating way), children will adore Aileen Quinn. This spunky and wonderful Annie possesses that rare quality in a child actor of being entertaining without being obnoxious. It's a testament to Quinn that by the end of the film you don't want to see her stuffed into the attic of the Hudson Street orphanage. The rest of the cast is spot on as well. Albert Finney is blustering but lovable, Carol Burnett wins a special prize for being the funniest drunk terror ever, and it's a lot of fun to see Bernadette Peters and Tim Curry play off each other (Curry has one of the funniest facial expressions).
After only a few minutes I was swept into Annie's world, the mark of a good movie. Directed by the legendary John Huston (The African Queen), the film exhibits a truly warm and cozy quality modern musicals often lack. Huston's direction is never showy, offering low key moments when needed and big grand musical numbers that are emotionally resonant. The narrative deals with some lofty and important ideas without being weighty. The relationship between Daddy Warbucks and Annie is heartwarming without being too saccharine. Underneath all the singing and curly red hair is the idea that home is the place where people love you, and family is so much more than blood relations.
Presented in 2.40:1/1080p high definition, the transfer accurately represents the film's bright and colorful nature. Fans will be thrilled to this 1982 classic in such a dramatic new light, with detail that's heads and shoulders above the standard definition DVD. The DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio mix is very good; featuring a wealth of music that gives the side and rear speakers a hearty workout. When there isn't music, the action reverts the front and center channel. Also included are alternate language tracks in Dolby 2.0 Stereo French, German, and Spanish, Dolby 5.1 Surround in Japanese, and English, French, Spanish, Japanese, German, Italian, Arabic, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Hindi, Norwegian, Swedish, and Turkish subtitles.
Bonus features on this "30th Anniversary Edition" are ported from the 2002 Special Anniversary Edition DVD, including a "Sing-Along with Annie!" option, a retrospective with actress Aileen Quinn, a pop song version of "It's a Hard Knock Life" by the band Play, five theatrical trailers and TV spots, and an UltraViolet download.
Annie wins us over with wonderful music, memorable performances, and a huge heart. This Blu-ray is definitely worth the upgrade, if you own the standard DVD version of this classic.
Nothing's guilty on Easy Street.
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