Scary Factor: Annie is kidnapped, shoved into a car and taken away; she is also chased by Rooster (shouting “I’ll kill ya!”), climbs to a great height on a bridge, dangles over the edge before being rescued
Violence: the orphans are very rough with each other; Annie punches out a bigger boy, knocking him down; much slapsticky shoving about, pratfalls, foot-stomping; less amusing is moment at climax when Miss Hannigan tries to stop Rooster and he punches her, knocking her out; also, a ‘bolshevik’ tries to kill Warbucks with a bomb (a brief and rather lighthearted event)
Also: lots of verbal threats, between orphans and from Miss Hannigan (who likes to holler “kill kill kill!”), most used for humour
Language: “shut up”, several “damn”s, “hell”
Bad Behavior: Miss Hannigan is drunk most of the time (makes her own bathtub gin); grownups smoke quite a lot
Sex: Miss Hannigan throws herself at every man she encounters, in a manner, shall we say, unusual for a children’s film; Miss Hannigan lounges about in her lingerie; Rooster and his girlfriend paw one another, fully clothed
Interests: musicals, song and dance, New York, history
Next: OTHER MOVIE MUSICALS: Singin’ in the Rain (all ages), Mary Poppins (3), Meet Me in St. Louis (4), The Music Man, The Wizard of Oz (4), The Sound of Music (6), STAGE: see Annie the musical live if you can
Adapted from the Broadway musical which was inspired by the long-running comic strip. In the height of the Depression in New York City, the secretary of billionaire Warbucks invites orphan Annie to stay with them for a week (as a PR move for her gruff boss). From the horrid orphanage, run by the drunken Miss Hannigan, Annie is transported to the very lap of luxury. Even though he wanted a boy instead, Warbucks is soon won over by the girl’s cheery disposition, and offers to adopt her permanently. To his astonishment, Annie declines the offer. Her parents told Miss Hannigan they’d be back for her some day, and Annie’s heart is set on finding them some day. Warbucks helps her, taking the search public and offering a $50,000 reward. They are soon inundated with fakers. Miss Hannigan conspires with her brother Rooster, who poses with his girlfriend as the missing parents. With the other missing half of Annie’s locket in hand (the true parents died many years before in a fire and Miss Hannigan was given their possessions), they convince Warbucks, who writes the cheque and lets them take Annie away. The orphans arrive soon after with the truth and Warbucks sends the entire NYPD after the criminals. Annie tries to escape, is chased up a bridge by the murderous Rooster. After a bit of cliff-hanger peril she is rescued by helicopter, to be reunited with her ‘Daddy’ Warbucks.
A sprawling and somewhat overblown musical with some pretty great tunes. The beginning is particularly gritty: the orphans are tough and scrappy, and Miss Hannigan (the fantastic Carol Burnett) is quite threatening. Once the girls launch into “Hard-Knock Life” however, even the youngest kids should be hooked. (My daughter insisted on scrubbing our floors the next day, singing this song. And I know of another mom who now uses this song for tidying up the toys just before bedtime, with great success.)
There is a fair amount of mean treatment of children, mostly from Miss Hannigan, lots of shoving around. She is drunk most of the time, however, so is rendered fairly ineffective. The alcohol abuse is right up front throughout, if that’s a concern. Miss Hannigan, always in her slinky lingerie, throws herself shamelessly at several men; there’s a fair amount of winking, and sexual innuendo throughout the story.
Annie is chock full of 1930s period details, and much name-dropping of the famous figures of the time, including a scene with President Roosevelt and Eleanor. They go to the theatre for a big number from the Rockettes and a Greta Garbo movie (Camille). And that stuff Miss Hannigan is pouring into her bathtub ain’t bubble bath, sister, it’s the fixin’s for bathtub gin, a Prohibition Era favourite. This movie could start a conversation about the Depression and FDR’s New Deal with older kids.
For the younger kids, these details aren’t so important. They’ll get the basics, that Annie is a poor orphan and Warbucks is a rich guy who needs to lighten up a bit. And Miss Hannigan and Rooster are up to no good. Still, plot points may need to be explained to the younger ones because it does move along rather quickly.
Regarding the PG rating… according to imdb, the studios wanted the higher rating rather than an innocuous G because they didn’t wanted a wider audience than just kids and parents. So they purposely included a few lines that gained them the PG: “Goddamn it!” (from Miss Hannigan) and “Come back here ya Goddamned kid!” (from Rooster)… though I also noticed at least a couple damns from Daddy Warbucks. (source imdb, sourced may 16, 2011)
In conclusion: A glorious musical, colourful and charming, with fantastic musical numbers. Also included in the bundle are a few ‘strong words’, a lot of boozing from one main character, and a pretty scary ending. Funny and smart – great entertainment for a wide range of ages.