Starring: Aileen Quinn, Albert Finney, Carol Burnett
Director: John Huston
Running Time: 128 mins
Annie is an American film about a New York orphan girl who is taken in by a wealthy business tycoon, whose cold, money-driven heart begins to melt as she brings life to his grand mansion.
A classic musical on account of a couple of highly memorable songs, Annie is far from the masterpiece you might expect. Though it’s a very sweet film with a zippy, lively lead performance from young Aileen Quinn, it’s also a rather cartoonish and superficial affair, taking a light-hearted story and stretching it out for far too long.
For the most part, Annie is a fairly underwhelming watch, lacking the magic of other great movie musicals like Mary Poppins, The Sound Of Music and Oliver!, with a collection of mostly forgettable songs and a very one-dimensional story that only really kicks into gear late on.
But let’s start with the positives, because despite the fact that Annie isn’t the great musical you may want it to be, there are still plenty of things to like. In the lead role, Aileen Quinn is a lot of fun, with a peppy performance that brings real energy to what can often be a bit of a lifeless musical.
Some of the secondary performances aren’t quite as good – Albert Finney is basically a cartoon character, Carol Burnett is fine as the evil owner of the orphanage, and Ann Reinking disappears from the movie in the second half. However, Quinn serves as a really lovable anchor for you to enjoy the movie as a whole.
What’s more, as superficial and simplistic as it is, Annie tells a rather sweet story that, at its best, will put a smile on your face. The opening 25 minutes are a playful portrayal of life in a Depression-era orphanage, and the third act is a nice blend of Hollywood action and sweet emotional depth.
The less said about the film’s lifeless and directionless middle act the better, but Annie does have just enough heart to entertain at its brightest moments, making for an imperfect but ultimately sweet watch.
The biggest disappointment, however, is the music. With the exception of “Tomorrow” and “The Hard-Knock Life”, which have really stood the test of time, so many of the songs in Annie are just plain terrible.
While the film doesn’t quite go to Cats or Les Misérables levels of singing everything, Annie turns rather mundane dialogue into equally mundane song lyrics, without the star quality in any of the actors to really make it something spectacular.
Aileen Quinn’s singing is good for a child actor, but the likes of Albert Finney really grate on the ears throughout the movie. Some of the musical numbers have a bit of fun dance choreography, but others are far more dull, struggling to really capture the magic of a great movie musical.
All in all, Annie is a bit of a mixed bag. Far from the great musical that the legendary status of its two best songs may suggest, the film delivers an often lifeless and extremely one-dimensional story that, despite moments of sweet emotion and a lively performance from Aileen Quinn, really drags over the course of the film’s two hour-plus runtime. So, that’s why I’m giving Annie a 6.6 overall.