In 10 Words or Less
Unfortunate TV sequel to movie classic
Before a sequel to a film is made, the creative forces behind it should have to go before a review board to plead their case that the film should be made. That goes double for television movies made as sequels. Perhaps if this was the case, the world would have been spared from Annie: The Royal Adventure. Unfortunately, that was not the case. Instead, we get a movie so boring that my wife, a huge Annie fan, asked if I could shut off the movie 15 minutes in.
This return to the well was obviously made for kids, with nothing offensive, or even remotely exciting, for that matter. The subtitle "A Royal Adventure" is false advertising at its finest, as there really is no adventure. Worse still, this is not a musical, which was Annie's biggest strength. The only song sung, a reprise of "Tomorrow," ends the movie, and is ridiculously placed, coming out of nowhere.
As far as plot goes, Daddy Warbucks (Tony Award-winner George Hearn) has to go to London to be knighted. Along with his faithful manservants Punjab and Asp, he's joined by his adopted daughter Annie (Ashley Johnson, "Growing Pains"), and two of her orphanage pals, Hannah and Molly. Molly's nearing the deadline date of nine, and hasn't been adopted yet, as Annie explains in some of the most awkward exposition I've ever seen.
Traveling with Daddy Warbucks is Dr. Eli Eon (Star Wars's Ian McDiarmid), the brains behind his newest industry, and Lady Edwina Hogbottom (Joan Collins at her campiest), an important socialite. These two are key to a story of espionage and backyard rockets. (Editor's note: What?) Sure, it's not a particularly engaging story, nor one that makes sense. But that's OK. Because Annie's the star of the show.
Or rather, it would be OK, but Annie has none of the charm Aileen Quinn blessed her with back in 1982. Johnson's Annie is too contemporary for the character, acting like she's 20 years older than her friends, while giving some of the most cloying line deliveries in TV-movie history. Her "Leaping Lizards" is just inauthentic and unimpressive.
A few songs would have helped bring some energy to a plodding script, but even that would have just been putting lipstick on a pig. This whole movie is a weak attempt at a kids movie that probably would serve better as a nightlight to help them sleep.
The little orphan has suffered in DVD hell, no matter what version we're talking about. The original DVD of the 1982 version had widescreen video, but bad 2.0 sound, while the anniversary special edition was in pan-and-scan only. Even the Disney version wasn't great, as it had no extras and a TV-friendly full-screen transfer. Now, with this sequel, we're stuck with full-screen again (since its an old TV movie) and no extras. The menus are static, with language (English, French and Japanese) and subtitle (English and Japanese) options, scene selections and previews, including one for this movie.
For a TV movie, the video quality is quite good, as the colorful sets are reproduced crisply. According to the package, it's been digitally remastered. The movie is, on a whole, very brightly lit, and there are no visible problems with the transfer. Aurally, the English and French tracks have effective 2.0 surround sound, while the Japanese is in stereo. There's not much to the mix, but you can hear everything clearly.
There are five family-friendly trailers available, including one for Annie: A Royal Adventure. That's it.
The Bottom Line
Your kids may get one viewing out of this DVD, but it will be hard for most any adult to sit through the entire thing. The only interesting bits for mature viewers are seeing Emperor Palpatine sing "Tomorrow" and Monty Python regular Carol Cleveland as Miss Hannigan. Other than that, it's a boring waste of time.
Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.Check out 1106 - A Moment in Fictional Time or his convention blog called Conning Fellow
*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.