Annie – Movie Review
Annie – PG
Release Date: Fri 19 Dec 2014
Annie is a modernized take on the 1982 film, itself an adaptation of the 1977 musical based on a comic strip “Little Orphan Annie.” This movie will mainly be compared against the 1982 film, and it is not nearly as solid despite a good cast and a few new songs and fun updates to set the story in the present rather than the early 20th century.
Beasts of the Southen Wild’s Quvenzhané Wallis plays Annie as a very upbeat and optimistic character. The writing lets her down a bit here, as she really only strays from being personified sunshine once or twice. This is well and good for an extended music video for kids, but not the greatest for telling an engaging story about people searching for family. Jamie Foxx plays Will Stacks, a cell phone mogul and mayoral candidate with “bill stacks” replacing “Daddy Warbucks” for the sake of modernizing that character. He is assisted by Grace (Rose Byrne) and a campaign manager named Guy (Bobby Carnivale.) Cameron Diaz plays Miss Hannigan – a foster mother rather than an orphanage administrator – who is a washed up singer still bitter about being fired from C+C Music Factory just before they hit it big.
The early part of the movie works well enough. It rapidly runs through some of the more memorable songs from the original and introduces us to the other foster children. There’s a nice sequence where Annie sees everyone playing with children in the reflections of passing car windows and the camera turns to reveal that this is her fantasy. A man that appeared to be bouncing a child in his arms is actually trying to toss up a construction bucket. There’s a sequence showing the decadent and amazing apartment of Will Stacks that becomes old fast as every scene set there starts feeling like a commercial (possibly for Microsoft?) rather than something kids would be excited about. The last update I enjoyed was Annie, Stacks and Grace going to a movie premiere of a hilarious fake movie starring Mila Kunis that Stacks became really invested in. Going to a movie premiere in 2014 seemed like a great way to update the original, which had Warbucks buying out an entire show at Radio City Music Hall.
Beyond this, the movie implodes in on itself. The new songs are fine enough, but the lack of familiarity hurts them. Instead of being recognizable melodies with some updated twists, they felt like extremely cheap auto-tune style pop songs. They likely won’t age well. The subplot about the fake parents has none of the danger of the 1982 film, where Stacks is duped for an extremely brief time, and even Annie is flat out told that they aren’t her parents (by the fake parents no less) minutes after they take her away. It ends in a dance number which gets one earned laugh from Diaz’s Hannigan before fading into the credits.
A little girl behind me asked a question I suspect many will – what happened to Sandy? The movie forgets to show us whether the dog is okay and part of the family. That speaks to how uneven the movie is, and unfortunately after a promising first half it ends with a whimper.
Matthew, Aaron and I saw it in the theater and had a discussion in the car: