Yes, I was as dismissive as a lot of other people when I heard that we were about to get another remake of Annie, the musical that gave us the songs "Tomorrow" and "It's A Hard Knock Life", and starred a little red-headed girl being annoyingly precocious. The 1982 movie isn't, as far as I can recall, that great a movie anyway, so I just didn't see any point in going back to that well. And when I saw the first trailer for this movie I was slightly smug, safe in the knowledge that this was a movie that I needn't prioritise, what with it having the potential to be absolutely bloody awful.
Well, I can always admit when I'm wrong (because it happens so often, unfortunately), and in the case of Annie I was wrong. It's not going to be one of my favourite movies, and it suffers from many of the failings that the original movie had, but this is a fun, energetic, musical that should keep the family entertained for the duration.
Quvenzhane Wallis takes over the titular role, and just fine she is too. She's an orphan who lives with the constant hope that one day she will be reunited with her parents. Meanwhile, she is stuck in the care of the bitter Miss Hannigan (Cameron Diaz), a nasty drunk who regrets the opportunities she missed out on in her past. Jamie Foxx is Will Stacks, the character substituting for Daddy Warbucks here. Stacks is a billionaire business tycoon trying to become mayor of New York, and when his approval rating jumps up after he's filmed saving Annie from being hit by a truck his staff decide that he could benefit even more if he offered Annie a temporary home.
I started to warm to this version of Annie in the first few scenes. In fact, the very opening moments provide an amusing little fake-out before moving in to a credit sequence that nicely riffs on the well-known musical numbers with a makeover that feels genuinely appropriate for the new audience without seeming horribly desperate. And everything kept ticking over nicely, for the most part.
There are two main problems that prove insurmountable for director Will Gluck, who also worked on the screenplay with Aline Brosh McKenna (with help from the past versions of the tale, of course). First of all, this isn't a musical full of the best songs. I'm sure many musical fans will disagree, but I've always found Annie to have more filler than thriller, to put it simply. Two good songs just don't cut it, especially when one of those isn't really all that good as opposed to just being one of the most familiar. The second big problem is Cameron Diaz horribly overacting in the role of Miss Hannigan (and let's not even mention the horrible backstory given to her). I've been kinder to Miss Diaz than most, over the years, but she's sorely miscast here, and an undeniable weak link in the cast.
Wallis is bright and sweet in the main role, just about avoiding feeling too precious, Foxx is a lot of fun as the rich man who tries to keep his defences up at all times, Rose Byrne and Bobby Cannavale are both good as the advisors who watch things unfold from two very different perspectives, and David Zayas and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje do well as two men, one a store owner and one in the employ of Stacks, who try to help Annie as much as possible.
Overall, the flaws in this version are similar to the flaws in the previous versions. The fact that it tries so hard to win viewers over with a better cast, for the most part, and ever-so-slight adjustment of the twee factor means that it's far from the worst family movie to come out in recent years, even if it will never be one of the best.
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