A remake of the 1982 big screen version of the Broadway musical, Annie began its life as another project for the Smith children (Will Smith bought the rights so his daughter Willow could star). However, delays made her too old for the role and she was replaced by Beasts Of The Southern Wild star Quvenzhane Wallis, and this is where unfortunately the good news ends for this surprisingly bland, unemotional musical extravaganza.
The story set-up starts as you would expect little Annie (no longer referred to as an orphan but rather a foster child) is waiting for her parents to return, living in a girl’s home run by the drunk and disillusioned Miss. Hannigan (Cameron Diaz – more on her later). One day she literally runs into Will Stacks (Jamie Foxx) the re-imagined Daddy Warbucks, who is an OCD cell phone giant, running for Mayor of New York. And before you can say Leaping Lizards, Annie moves in with him to make him a more relatable figure and to create some great photo opportunities.
Of course though Will finds himself falling for the charms of the little girl who opens his heart but will the finding of her birth parents ruin their happy ending? Anybody who has watched the original movie or has seen the musical knows the answer to this but needless to say it doesn’t stray too far from the original’s path.
Hands up then, I am a huge fan of the original Annie and I was looking forward to watching this re-imagining but sadly it was missing genuine imagination, which leaves the movie itself being a limp, ghost like version of the original. Starting with the songs.
Any musical is only as strong as the songs it contains and the original version of Annie is filled with plenty of catchy tunes. The remake starts off well with pleasantly updated versions of Tomorrow Maybe and It’s A Hard Knock Life, accompanied by some slick and clever choreography.
But then things start to change significantly, I Think I’m Gonna Like It Here loses all its charm when the only thing to like is an apartment that is filled with smart technology, and the fantastic Little Girls is completely destroyed to become a bland, boring and totally unremarkable and forgettable pop song. This is only topped in the awful stakes with the truly cringe inducing The City’s Yours which is totally out of place and painful to watch. In fact all the new and overly changed songs are just a tease, you think you are getting something good but the reality is you only leave the cinema humming along to the ones you already knew. Given Jay-Z is a producer I was hoping for better when it came to original songs.
Then there are the stars themselves. Unfortunately, the majority of them – including Rose Byrne and Cameron Diaz – struggle with the singing. Which is something of a significant flaw for a movie musical. Furthermore, Miss Hannigan is a fantastic musical villain, she is a drunk who cares only for herself and what she can get out of life and in the 1982 version Carol Burnett played her with such brilliant comedy you can’t help but think it must be the performance all others aspire to.
Diaz, however, did not get the memo on subtle comedy as her Hannigan is a parody of itself, one that’s completely over the top (and not in a good way). Jamie Foxx doesn’t fare much better as his Will Stacks remains one dimensional and feels like he is just going from A to B because he needs to – the emotional connection between himself and Annie is pretty weak. Where in the original when we get to I Don’t Need Anything But You, you feel that bond, in the new version well, it had to be put in so that’s what they did.
The one bright spark though is Quvenzhane Wallis, who makes a really likeable Annie. She is sweet and funny, and with a stronger script she could very well have become a definitive screen Annie. Here, though, she will just be remembered as the best part of a mediocre movie.
It isn’t all bad news though. There are some really lovely little nods to the original movie scattered through the film and the movie they go and see (in what used to be Let’s Go to The Movies, Annie) is fantastically sarcastic and funny and has some great cameos. Unfortunately the bad does outweigh the good and this Christmas you might find you need to go elsewhere for that festive feel good feeling.
Annie is out tomorrow! Tomorrow! I love ya… [Stop that – Ed.] Sorry. Annie is out in UK cinemas on the 26th December.
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