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Leaping lizards, it's Annie! From her humble birth in 1924, the little orphan comic-strip character created by Harold Gray has appeared in print, on radio, TV, film and stage. In the 1995 movie, Annie: A Royal Adventure, the rags-to-riches redhead (played by Ashley Johnson) has settled into the care of her millionaire adoptive parent, but still keeps in touch with her old friends.
On one of her visits to the orphanage, Annie sees an advertisement for a fortuneteller. Indulging her over-active imagination by having her palm read, she is at first skeptical about the prediction of a long voyage in her future. When she gets home and learns Daddy Warbucks (George Hearn) is planning to take her to London, the suddenly superstitious 11 year-old is convinced she should now seriously consider the soothsayer's warning to look out for sinister characters, water, and ... weasels.
Whether prophetic or not, two sinister characters (Crispin Bonham-Carter and Perry Benson) are stalking the young heiress. As she crosses the Atlantic waters aboard the Queen Mary, Annie and her traveling companions also meet the weasel-like Lady Hogbottom (Joan Collins). The English aristocrat befriends the wealthy Warbucks, and takes a suspicious interest in his prot0xE9g0xE9, Professor Eli Eon (Ian McDiarmid), a socially inept inventor with a sought after secret formula.
Reflecting the larger-than-life storylines of the original cartoon, Annie's royal adventure is full of scandalous plots, evil villains, and half-witted hooligans that can all be thwarted by the innocent interference of a group of children. While the mild peril, drugged milk and cookies, and a dungeon full of snakes may frighten the youngest of viewers, older audiences will likely find the whole thing too melodramatic.
For parents the greatest concern will be Annie's disregard for rules and her personal safety. Wanting to include Molly (Camilla Belle) on the trip, the over zealous girl hatches a stowaway plan that includes lying to her chum's caregiver. Arriving in the big city, the pals go exploring without telling anyone of their plans. As well, they accept an invitation from a stranger with only a moment's hesitation.
But what might make this movie a pleasant diversion for your children is Annie's strongest trait--her loyalty to friends and family. Redeeming herself by plucking up her courage in the face of trial, the little gal in red saves the day...and promises (in a somewhat cheesy concluding musical production number) a world with a brighter "Tomorrow."
Annie: a Royal Adventure is rated G:
Cast: Ashley Johnson, Joan Collins