“Annie” is not a good film. Okay? However, I state that right up front, because I do want to point out a few positive things about it. First up, the talent of Quevenzhane Wallis (the youngest Best Actress nominee in history, for “Beasts of the Southern Wild” in 2012) is no fluke. She’s charming, effervescent and dazzling in this modern, urbanized take on the 1977 Broadway musical–itself derived from the “Little Orphan Annie” comic strip that began in the 1920’s. This little girl just might have the grand future envisioned for her, when she burst onto the scene as Hushpuppy a couple of years back.
Secondly, I think Jamie Foxx did a fine job as 2014’s Daddy Warbucks–updated to germophobic billionaire and mayoral candidate, William “Will” Stacks. He shows grace, charisma, and he’s wonderfully appealing. Ditto, the adorable Rose Byrne as Stacks’ personal assistant, and eventual love interest, Grace Farrell. Also, special mention to the fact that the two build up towards a romance–with no mention of their race differential, whatsoever. Awesome–let’s call that progress. And I’m beginning to believe that character actor, Bobby Cannavale can do anything–he somehow makes Guy, his political adviser character, work against all odds.
Now, for the bad news. Cameron Diaz is game, but simply grating, as foster-mother Miss Hannigan. The updated role was poorly thought out. The film is overlong, and the new songs really stink. Plus, the original classics are infused with a “pop” sensibility, that doesn’t always work. The other young orphans are interchangeable, with no one managing to stand out. And certain celebrity cameos (Michael J. Fox, Mila Kunis & Ashton Kutcher among them), come off as terribly forced. Overall, for this new “Annie”, kinda clunky…has its charms…falls short of dreadful. Hey, I tried to push my 9-year-old towards “Big Hero 6”, but he chose this instead. He had a grand time–so take that for what it’s worth. Will Gluck directs–and it really could’ve gone so much worse.
next review up: “Birdman”