“Annie” or “Unbroken”?

Oakland on Christmas Day. Visiting my son, his wife and two boys. Family tradition sez we go to a movie on Christmas Day. (We’ve seen some very un-Christmas-y movies, like Oliver Stone’s “JFK”).

On our way to the theater, the adults were debating whether to see “Unbroken or “Into the Woods.” Nat, 10, spoke up. He had a say in what movies we saw, didn’t he? Adult silence. He made a pitch for “Annie.” More adult silence.

I sure didn’t want to see what looked like a saccharine, bombastic musical. Nat insisted it’d be a great, movie-going experience, but he couldn’t stir up enough excitement. I was trying to let him down gently, and to figure out another movie choice that we adults could tolerate. Then I realized: I was the grandma in this particular situation. Let son and his wife and her sister go see an adult movie. I’d go to “Annie,” and might not enjoy it, but it would be a chance to hang out with Nat and Gil. With no pressure from me, Hombre ditched the heavy movies and came along with us. Turns out he really liked Cameron Diaz as Miss Hannigan.

My writer-brain kept picking apart the “Annie” script – the actors deserved better. Especially Quvenzhané Wallis, who was down-to-earth, smart and compassionate as Annie. I liked the music, but wished they hadn’t auto-tuned it until it was all flat and bland. Mostly, it was long, and I kept glancing at Nat and Gil to see if they liked the movie.

They were mesmerized by the big screen. And that was the most enjoyable part of the movie for me. I remembered Nat and Gil’s dad when he was their age. He and his sister would come home from a movie and tell me the plot, blow by twisty blow. I marveled at their memory, their enthrallment with the story. And now, decades later, I enjoy Nat and Gil’s complete absorption in “Annie.”

When the movie ends, we wait in the lobby for the adults to emerge from “Unbroken.” My son, his wife and her sister look drained. Maybe I got the better deal on our Christmas Day movie.

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