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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this version of Annie is a 1999 made-for-TV adaptation of the classic musical. There's some verbal bullying from the other orphans, especially toward the youngest and smallest girl, and taunting toward orphans such as Annie, who believe their parents are still alive. In their song about Miss Hannigan, the girls sing of how they want to "make her drink a Mickey Finn," which is a drugged alcoholic drink intended to make the drinker incapacitated. Miss Hannigan drinks shots of whiskey with her brother and her brother's girlfriend. This same brother threatens to "make Annie disappear" using a switchblade. For adoptive families and adopted children, Annie's firm belief that her parents are still alive, and her eventual discovery of the truth, could be difficult for some.
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What's the story?
In 1933 Manhattan, feisty 11-year-old Annie (Alicia Morton) lives in an orphanage run by the dastardly Miss Hannigan (Kathy Bates), and dreams of someday finding her real parents. When Annie is invited to the home of billionaire Oliver "Daddy" Warbucks (Victor Garber), the plucky orphan wins the tycoon's heart and he offers to adopt her. She resists, however, still determined to be reunited with her real parents. Spurred by the $50,000 reward that Warbucks offers, the conniving Hannigan and her unscrupulous brother pose as Annie's parents. But just in the nick of time, help comes from a surprising source -- President Franklin D. Roosevelt. When she finally learns that her parents are dead, Annie thankfully agrees to let loving Warbucks adopt her.
Is it any good?
This Wonderful World of Disney version is abundantly satisfying. It's short, sweet, and faithful to the stage play. Director Alan Marshall does a fine job of integrating the music into the story; the musical numbers are done in high style, but still feel spontaneous and unaffected. In her movie debut, Alicia Morton is spirited and natural as Annie, performing her songs with sensitivity and skill. Kathy Bates is perfectly cast as the greedy Miss Hannigan, while stage veteran Victor Garber is expert as the big-hearted "Daddy" Warbucks. And, there's a great cameo by Andrea McArdle, Broadway's original Annie.
Annie involves the misadventures of a girl, but the story holds equal appeal for boys, who will probably be charmed by the spunky redhead and intrigued by the imposter parents adoption plot -- and even begin singing along to the songs! This is an Annie that the whole family can enjoy.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why orphan stories are so popular. What other titles can they think of? What is powerful about these stories?
How does this movie convey the difficult realities for millions during the Great Depression? What are some other examples of rags-to-riches stories?
What are some other examples of musicals that have stood the test of time? Why are they classics?
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