Annie (1999)

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Released 30-Mar-2004

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Family Main Menu Audio
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1999
Running Time 86:03 (Case: 134)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Rob Marshall
Studio
Distributor
Disney
Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.
Starring Alicia Morton
Kathy Bates
Alan Cumming
Audra McDonald
Kristin Chenoweth
Victor Garber
Andrea McArdle
Erin Adams
Sarah Hyland
Lalaine
Nanea Miyata
Marissa Rago
Danelle Wilson
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $19.95 Music Charles Strouse


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
German
French
Dutch
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Pretty much everyone is familiar with the tale of Little Orphan Annie, the adorable red-headed moppet who rises from Dickensian misery in cruel Miss Hannigan’s orphanage to Vanderbiltian luxury in the care of Daddy Warbucks. Not a lot of people may remember the original comic strip, but the Broadway musical placed Annie firmly in the popular memory. Children of the 1980s fondly recall the rather different 1982 film adaptation – although this may be the kind of nostalgia that is best left untested by an adult re-viewing! – and as one such, I looked forward to seeing this new version, made for television by Disney in 1999. What could the House of Mouse do with this material?

    Not quite enough. I’m sorry to say that this version of Annie, while not without merit, is too short, drab, and toothless. It seems to be aimed at exceptionally young children, and even they may well figure out that they’re missing something. The reason for this underwhelming tepidity is easily summarised: Made For Television By Disney. Making this material into an 86-minute telemovie means cutting out songs and compressing the story to the point where it has no room to breathe; making it on a television budget (and in a full-screen aspect ratio) means denying it the scale, squalor and splendour it deserves; and making it for a thoroughly lukewarm G-rating means sucking out all but the last dregs of the menace, heartache and politics that Annie needs. Director and choreographer Rob Marshall does his best to overcome these constraints, and his work here is often great fun. But I was left feeling dissatisfied.

    This is a re-adaptation of the Broadway musical, rather than a remake of the film, and it doesn’t include any of the songs specifically written for the latter: Dumb Dog, Sandy, Let’s Go To The Movies, We Got Annie, and Sign. Neither does it include the stage songs We’d Like To Thank You, You Won’t Be An Orphan For Long, Annie, and A New Deal For Christmas. The numbers we do get – Maybe, The Hard-Knock Life, NYC, Little Girls, I Think I’m Gonna Like It Here, Easy Street, Fully Dressed, Something Was Missing, and I Don’t Need Anything But You – are well sung, and enjoyably choreographed within the severe limitations of scope and budget. Rob Marshall is clearly influenced by the work of Bob Fosse, as he would soon confirm with his adaptation of Fosse’s Chicago. He works his cast well; Alicia Morton is an appealing Annie, Victor Garber a solid Daddy Warbucks, and Alan Cumming an enthusiastically unpleasant Rooster Hannigan. Kathy Bates, though no lithe dancer, gives her all as the villainous Miss Hannigan. Audra McDonald lends a lovely voice to Grace, personal secretary to Warbucks – lovely enough to distract one from her very forced romantic subplot. Annie’s implausibly pan-ethnic fellow orphans are agreeably non-repulsive. Everyone else fades into the background.

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Transfer Quality

Video

   This is a drab but adequate transfer of a drab but adequate source.

   The aspect ratio is 1.33:1, exactly as originally broadcast.

   Annie is a quickly-made telemovie, and looks like one. The image is always a little soft and unexciting; there are a lot of dark or poorly-lit scenes, often with very little shadow detail – like the bar interior at 49:34. There is little or no visible grain, and there are no film artefacts at all.

   Rob Marshall may have made a deliberate effort to evoke the Depression era by muting the colour palette; certainly the film looks drab and brown, whether it was intentional or not. Alas, the effect is simply to make everything look a little uglier and more… depressing. Skin tones suffer, too. There are no colour artefacts, but then there’s just not that much colour.

   A few MPEG artefacts crop up – aliasing on a cushion at 12:23, and on blinds at 48:24 and 55:55, and some macro-blocking on a lamp at 52:13.

   The subtitles are well placed, readable and accurate – and very helpful if you want to learn the songs!

   This is a dual-layered disc, with the layer change so well placed between segments (Yes! Segments! With blackout-for-commercial-break between them!) that I was unable to detect it.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

   This is a minimal transfer of an enjoyable soundtrack.

   There are three audio tracks: a default English Dolby Digital 5.1 track at 448 Kbps, and a pair of German and French Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks at 192 Kbps. The dubs are reasonable, if of necessarily lower quality given the audio format.

   All dialogue and singing comes through the centre channel, and is perfectly clear and without hiss. There was an audio blip at 75:40 during Grace’s reprise of Tomorrow – a momentary distortion in the sound possibly due to pitch correction. There were no problems with audio synchronisation.

   Charles Strouse’s wonderful original music is quintessential Broadway – sweetly sentimental one moment, brassily hilarious the next. All the numbers sound terrific here, solidly ensconced in the front left and right channels.

   The surround channel gets almost nothing to do for most of the film, only coming (barely) alive to provide some slight support for NYC and Anything But You, and to enhance the crowd noise at 60:38. This is not a disc to show off your surround sound setup with.

   The subwoofer gets to support the low end of the music, and that’s about it. Annie is not an action-packed film; there isn’t so much as a car backfire here.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    There are no bonus features whatsoever – a great pity, since it would have been interesting to hear the cast and crew talk about the differences between the various iterations of Annie, and the reasoning behind the decisions taken with this adaptation.

Menu

    The main menu features a two shot of Annie and Daddy Warbucks from their lovely duet, Anything But You, accompanied by a brief snatch of the opening-titles medley. It is 16x9 enhanced.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

   The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;

       The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on;     Unless you have a burning desire to watch ads for a movie you’ve already bought, there’s no reason not to buy the Region 4 version.

Summary

    As a film, Annie is a missed opportunity, bound by the confines of television to fall short of its potential. As a DVD, Annie has received as competent a presentation as one could ask for – and no more.

   The video quality is adequate.

   The audio quality is very good.

   The extras are nonexistent.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Tennant Reed
Tuesday, July 27, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDSony DVP-NS730P, using Component output
DisplayPanasonic PT-AE500E projecting onto 100" screen. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR601 with DD-EX and DTS-ES
SpeakersJensen SPX-7 fronts, Jensen SPX-13 centre and rear centre, Jensen SPX-4 surrounds, Jensen SPX-17 subwoofer

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