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Very Annie Mary

Starring Rachel Griffiths and Jonathan Pryce
Written and Directed by Sara Sugerman

IN SHORT: Hilarious musical comedy though stymied by accents thick as mud. [Not Rated. 105 minutes]

A couple of years ago we were floored by a Brit export called The Full Monty, which we hope you've seen by now. In Monty, unemployed miners stripped for cash with a lot of very funny moments leading up to the big finale. Now we have Very Annie Mary, in which a woman emerges from the shadow of her oppressive and abusive father to join a singing group organized to win a talent show, with its £1000 prize to finance a trip to Disneyland for a dying girl. Along the way there are some very funny and downright hilarious slapstick moments leading up to the big show, after which our hero is turned into a goat and this musical comedy shifts into heavy duty tearjerker mode. All in the blink of an eye.

The best we can say is that Very Annie Mary is brilliant and touching if you can cut your way through accents as thick and tough as three day old bread. The "must see" reason to seek it out on the big screen are the name brand stars, both of whom enunciate clearly enough that we got 97% of their dialog. Rachel Griffiths continues a stellar run on HBO's Six Feet Under and Jonathan Pryce is one of those names whose presence in a film should be enough to get you into the theater all by itself. We've been watching Pryce since the landmark Brazil, the unexpurgated edition, and he's never failed to disappoint, either. Here he manages to create a thoroughly unlikable character, a dad who treats his daughter as nothing better than foot warmer, and then manages to get huge laughs without saying a single word when his character is felled by a stroke. Political Correctness be damned. The situation created here is one in which an audience can feel entirely justified by laughing at the misfortunes of a crippled man -- no eMail on this one folks. Cranky's a disabled guy and he was in stitches.

-- ah, let's be honest. Outside of the big cities you'll never get near this thing on anything but tape or DVD, which is the best way to watch it. Pryce delivers a truly evil, yet lovingly evil dad. Very religious. Very successful as the town baker and the apple in the eye of every widow in the village of Ogw, specifically the pie baking Mrs. Ifans (Ruth Madoc). If Father is a controlling, mean old man, Mrs. Ifans is his counterpart -- a mean, nasty bitch, coated in a nice sugary confection of smiles and sweaters.

Father (Pryce), you must understand, has a magnificent voice. While delivering the daily, bread he pumps the music for Puccini out of loudspeakers on his delivery truck and sings along, infused with the spirit of Pavarotti. This is the first thing you see and this is the first visual gag -- it's a two part jimmy -- that is extremely funny. Once Father and daughter are in the same room, it's obvious that she is cowed by her dad. Annie-Mary (Griffiths) is, to be fair a klutz. She has a droopy demeanor, is dull depressed, slovenly and couldn't bake a loaf of bread even half as good as Father, who solidifies his place in the community by running the music portions of the weekly church service as if they were a Music Hall. Annie-Marie wants out of the house, and into an available building formerly occupied by some villager who died. She needs £120 downpayment. Dad laughs hysterically knowing the complete inadequacy of his daughter's social and communicative skills.

But then he has a stroke. And daughter takes revenge. We've said all we've had to on this point. More important than the visceral thrill of kicking Father when he's down, Annie's best friend Bethan Bevan (Joanna Page) is bedridden and dying. When it becomes known that her dying wish is to visit Disneyland, the town rallies and puts together a "pop group" to sing at a local talent contest. Annie, who once won a singing prize at age 15 and hasn't sung since, goes along to help. She doesn't sing though she does bring down the house, just before the world comes crashing down on her. That brings us full circle back to the last sentences of paragraph one.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Nine Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Very Annie Mary, he would have paid . . .


As much as we enjoyed it, you may have to rent it and go through it a couple of times to work your way through the accents.

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