“Okay, I will be in my room for the rest of the movie, come get me when––”
“Sit down, Gwen!” Eleanor tugged against Gwen’s sleeve.
“Do we really need to watch, though?”
“You picked it!” Dania shouted.
“I selected in ignorance!” Gwen cried out. ” I didn’t realize it was this bad!”
“It’s not actually that bad, Gwen, would you sit down and deal?”
Growling, Gwen returned to the couch, her head falling into her open palms. She massaged her temples, wondering silently if she still had Advil in her room.
“Eyes on the screen.”
Dutifully she looked up. At least Cameron Diaz was off-screen again. It would be a long evening, that much was clear.
– – – – –
“It wasn’t that bad, right?”
Dania looked at her friends. Gwen – of course – was visibly unhappy, her shoulders pressed into the couch. But beyond that, Eleanor simply looked lost. Her eyes groped for something in the film’s colorful credits sequence, but came up short.
“I mean, maybe it’s a little weird and unfocused, but that doesn’t make it a bad movie, right?” Dania asked again.
Eleanor attempted to begin: “I feel like it just––”
“Why are there two film adaptations of Annie that both end with helicopter chases?” Gwen suddenly interjected.
Dania’s eyes widened. “What version of Annie are you watching with a helicopter chase in it?”
“The 1983 one,” Grew answered. “The one where Geoffrey Holder is the Indian manservant.”
At this, Eleanor looked up too. “Oh, wow, I completely forgot that was a thing.”
“I have no earthly clue what you’re talking about,” Dania said.
“The film version of Annie!” Gwen repeated. “The one with Carol Burnett as Hannigan. The one where they’re Newsies-dancing during ‘Hard Knock Life!'”
Dania just stared and stared.
“It has Tim Curry as Rooster,” Eleanor added.
“Tim Curry?” Dania finally spoke. “Wasn’t it Alan Cumming?”
Gwen glanced up to the ceiling. “Oh, you mean the 1999 T.V. version, the Disney version. Yes, that also exists, is that the one you know?”
“Yeah, the one with the black woman as Grace,” Dania added.
“The black woman?” Gwen screeched – mortified that her friend would take the name of Audra McDonald in vain.
“I haven’t seen that version, is it good?” Eleanor asked. She closed the laptop, ending the credits for the most recent Annie.
“It’s fine,” Gwen said. “It’s the closest to the musical, but they also cut a bunch of stuff out. The whole thing is ninety minutes.”
“It’s great!” Dania added, defensively. “The president shows up at the end!”
“That’s in the 1983 version, too,” Eleanor said. “In fact, he’s in a lot of the 1983 version. I’m surprised they didn’t replace him with Obama in the new version.”
“Oh, that would have made it so much better,” Dania said. “Like, it doesn’t even have to be part of the plot or anything. Just, during the final scene or something, he’s just in the back. Maybe Malia and Sasha are two of the kids on phones who track Annie down.”
“Yeah, that’s an interesting ending,” Eleanor said. “Like, if the whole movie was secretly bankrolled by Twitter, I wouldn’t be surprised.”
“‘We can help you locate kidnapped children’ is one hell of a slogan,” Gwen agreed.
“See, that’s the thing about it, right?” Dania answered. She sat up straighter. “You can complain about how much it’s different than the other versions, but it’s not like the change makes no sense. Or that they only did it so they could update the music. They figured out what needed to change with the time period and adapted it.”
“The alteration from orphanage to foster home is an obvious one,” Eleanor agreed. “And making Warbucks into a phone magnate is better than…what did he do in the original?”
“It’s implied to be weapons manufacturing,” Gwen recalled. “But never stated directly.”
“Then yeah, glad they changed that.”
“It’s also stuff like…” Dania began, before pausing.
“Okay,” she grimaced. “I know you hate the songs, but hear me out.”
Gwen inhaled deeply, but spoke: “Go on.”
“They’re not that bad,” Dania stated. “They’re not better than the originals, but it’s its own thing. That’s my overall point: it doesn’t feel like it’s trying to adapt itself from something else, where there’s all these plot points and characters that are there only because it’s in the original version. There are big changes made in order to match that new setting, and that’s good.”
“It is very rare to see the third iteration of an intellectual property” Gwen answered. “Annie the musical is based on the comic from the 30s, but only loosely. Having a new film that’s based on the musical loosely, and doesn’t add anything from the comic, it’s at least distinct. In the way that photocopying something twice is distinct.”
“It is,” Eleanor said. “Although I’ll definitely say: Annie herself is way too nice in this version.”
“What do you mean, ‘too nice?'” Dania asked. “It’s Annie!”
“Yeah, but she’s supposed to be spunky. Look at the 1983 version,” Eleanor pointed out. “Sure, she’s part-Pollyanna, but she also gets angry, pushes back against Warbucks, wouldn’t do something like – to pick a random example – wait outside a restaurant every Friday like some waif, on the off-chance that her parents just happen to wander by.”
“Okay, I admit that’s a little dumb,” Dania said. “And the drawing on the sidewalk is very Pinterest-y.”
“It’s pointless,” Gwen said. “Once the movie admits to not knowing where Annie’s parents are, they no longer matter. Not to mention, the plot point about Hannigan holding an open casting call for Annie’s fake parents – am I supposed to believe that every single person in that room kept their mouth shut?”
“Yeah, where do you post an audition notice for that and not get immediately flagged by Warbucks’ team?” Eleanor asked. “Stacks‘ team, whatever the name is.”
“Don’t tell me it’s not funny, though,” Dania answered, with a grin. “Where Guy walks through and sees the white couple, and he’s like––”
“That’s a choice,” all three repeated in unison.
“It’s funny, but it’s also, like, a plot hole.”
“That’s sort of a larger issue, though,” Eleanor said. “The movie doesn’t really feel like it has…I don’t know what the word is, but ‘consistency’ is close. There are bits of comedy that feel separate from the actual plot.”
“It lacks consistent worldbuilding, I think is what you’re driving at,” Gwen answered. “It’s part and parcel to the songs being sometimes diegetic and sometimes non-diegetic.”
“Please explain your words,” Dania asked.
“Whether the songs exist in-universe or not,” Gwen rephrased. “Some songs are obviously there because it’s a musical. The characters aren’t supposed to be literally singing. “I Think I’m Gonna Like It Here” is that, so is Will Stacks’ helicopter song.”
“Exactly,” Gwen sneered. “But other songs, like ‘Hard Knock Life’ or ‘Easy Street,’ are apparently supposed to be literally happening in-universe, because characters comment on them happening.”
“By characters, you mean pretty much just Hannigan,” Eleanor clarified.
Gwen grumbled again.
“I’m not convinced that Cameron Diaz didn’t just ad-lib all of her dialogue,” Eleanor suggested.
“I’m not convinced that everyone didn’t just ad-lib all their dialogue,” Gwen shouted.
“I mean, they clearly had a script going in,” Dania said. “It’s not like everything is a joke and nothing ever matters. There’s build-up and character development. For some people.”
“My point is,” Gwen said, attempting to take the conversation back, but lost her train of thought. Scrambling, she latched onto the earlier point: “‘Tomorrow’ is a mess because it switches from being non-diegetic to diegetic halfway through.”
“Okay, though, you know what?” Eleanor suddenly said, sitting up. “We can argue back and forth about songs and dialogue and stuff, but I think there is one thing that they absolutely nailed in Annie 2014.”
“What, something like cinematography?” Dania asked.
“No, the cinematography is terrible!”
“Shush, Gwen,” Eleanor warned. “No, the one thing they did better than any other version of Annie is the character of the leading role.”
“I thought you said she was a waif on a streetcorner,” Gwen said.
“No, not Annie,” Eleanor answered. “Warbucks. He’s the one that actually changes during the story. And Jamie Foxx is way better at that than whoever played him in the 1983 movie. I can’t speak for the 1999 version, to be fair.”
“It’s Victor Garber, and it’s rushed,” Gwen said. “It’s not his fault.”
“I don’t think it was rushed,” Dania stated.
“Annie comes in and he’s immediately turned around by her!”
“Yeah, because she softens him,” Dania explained. “It’s not like he’s this immobile asshole until Annie arrives, he’s just an overworked idiot.”
“But that’s the thing,” Eleanor continued. “In the 2014 version, he is an asshole. Completely. The entire concept is based around how he exploits this girl in order to further his own mayoral bid. And props to this movie for giving Stacks a better reason than Warbucks for taking in an orphan.”
“They never give any reason at all in the stage version,” Gwen added.
“He’s a jerk, but he changes, and the change happens at a pace that makes sense,” Eleanor said. “Not to mention, I love the idea that he lives in this big empty apartment totally alone, rather than with servants.”
“I suppose you’re not wrong,” Gwen admitted. “Especially compared to Finney and Garber in the movies, his relationship to Grace and the other people in his little posse is more interesting to watch.”
“Though let’s agree: no version has ever made the pairing of Grace and Warbucks not feet really, really rushed,” Eleanor stated.
“Oh, totally agreed,” Dania said.
“I don’t know,” Eleanor sighed. “I just think there’s a lot about it the new Annie that works…”
“See! I told you!” Dania cried out.
“…in theory,” Eleanor added. “It’s a less-than-the-sum-of-its-parts deal. Some cool ideas about how to adapt the story, it just doesn’t come together in the end.”
“It’s still not, strictly speaking, necessary,” Gwen said. “But I can accept that it’s at least an addition to the discourse around musical adaptations on film.”
“Now we just need to get a modern adaptation of Oklahoma! set in San Fransisco,” Dania suggested.
Gwen winced. “Then what would you call it?”
Image Credit: The Nerdist