You know the story, you know the songs, but this time around Annie is done a little differently. Set in modern times and starring the African American child actress Quvenzhane Wallis in the title role, this is Annie like you’ve never seen it before. As one of five foster children of the drunk, narcissistic and cruel Colleen Hannigan (Cameron Diaz), Annie dreams of the day she will be reunited with her parents, never losing hope that they will one day come back for her despite her attempts to find them being continually thwarted. But everything changes the day she runs into Will Stacks (Jamie Foxx), a billionaire campaigning unsuccessfully for New York City Mayor, who saves Annie from being hit by a car and footage of the encounter goes viral.
On the advice of his bumbling campaign advisor Guy (Bobby Cannavale) and his personal assistant Grace (Rose Byrne), Will takes Annie in for the duration of his campaign to show off his philanthropic nature to the public. Reluctantly, Will agrees to become Annie’s temporary guardian, but eventually the pair grow closer, and Will starts to see himself in the plucky, young Annie. But Guy has bigger plans in store for Annie that are sure to secure Will the votes he needs, but it means dividing the pair for good.
While all the great things about Annie are still present in this film: cheery songs, well choreographed dancing and a good injection of cheese; this adaptation just falls flat. Quvenzhane Wallis, who first made a splash as one of the most talented child actors around in Beasts of the Southern Wild, is always a delight to watch and manages to hold her own as Annie, while Jamie Foxx brings warmth and a fantastic singing voice to his character, but I question the rest of the casting. Cameron Diaz in particular seemed out-of-place and a little nauseating in the role of Hannigan, and it is clear that she and the rest of the cast were not chosen for their singing voices. The result of this seems to be a lot of voice editing when it comes to the film’s musical numbers, and all of the songs are overlayed in the soundtrack with no live singing involved. While I understand live singing isn’t always feasible, the overproduction of these songs we know so well made the actor’s lip syncing look so unrealistic, and the whole film came off as phony.
I question the values of the film too, which focused rather heavily on materialism. Will’s penthouse suit was a pimped out caricature of what wealth looks like, and Annie’s desire to be a part of that world presented a poor message to the young target audience. In saying that, there was a great deal more focus on what the word ‘family’ means, and the fact that your family doesn’t necessarily have to share your blood is an important one for children to grasp.
There’s no denying that Annie is fun, but when it relies so heavily on cliche and doesn’t take the genre of ‘musical’ to the next level, it never goes any further than that. There’s no greater depth to what is playing out in front of you, and in the end this feel-good film is a little more deflating.
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