It's also fascinating to ponder the political implications of ''Annie,'' onstage and on-screen. The original Broadway version opened in 1977, before Reaganomics became a national phenomenon. FDR is an important characteRPz he show, and he invehts the New Deal right before our eyes, with a vivid description of government putting people back to work and reshaping the American dream. ''Annie'' is still going strong on the Uris Theater stage, and when I dropped in the other night, the New Deal speech prompted a smattering of applause.
But there was a much longer and more delighted audience response when addy Warbucks intoned the secret of his success: that it's OK to trample people on your way ''up'' as long as you aren't planning a return trip ''down.'' Among the Broadway set, at least, aggressive business tactics are definitely more popular nowadays than governmental idealism.
Perhaps reflecting current moods, the movie tones down the historical perspective. The Great Depression of the 1930s is evoked less pungently in the screen version - despite the obvious opportunities for realism - and the Washington scenes are less forceful. FDR still lectures Daddy Warbucks, insisting that business is not the only business of America. But nobody seems to care very much, one way or the other. The real business of ''Annie'' is cute little girls, the movie reminds us, and anything else is mere diversion.
Still, it's encouraging that the screen ''Annie'' makes a few gestures toward historical atmosphere, bringing the background into the foreground, and deepening what might have been a purely frivolous two hours. The director, John Huston, and the writer, Carol Sobieski, don't take Daddy Warbucks's bucks entirely at face value, and there are hints that some of his billion could be employed better than in bolstering the comfort of a single lonely capitalist.
To be sure, ''Annie'' isn't an experimental ''Pennies From Heaven'' or an analytic ''Pacific Overtures,'' or even a moody-wacky ''42nd Street.'' But there's a bit more here than the life and good times of a little girl and her dog.