UK Release Date: 26th December 2014
Runtime: 118 minutes
Director: Will Gluck
Writer: Will Gluck, Aline Brosh McKenna
Starring: Quvenzhané Wallis, Jamie Foxx, Cameron Diaz, Rose Byrne, Bobby Cannavale
Synopsis: A foster child and a businessman-turned-politician form an unlikely bond in an attempt to get the latter elected mayor.
Initially conceived as a vehicle for Willow Smith, this modern update of musical Annie transposes the story to modern New York City. It has received a royal kicking from some critics, but it’s actually a bouncy, fun romp of a film to bring 2014 to a rousing conclusion.
Annie (Quvenzhané Wallis) is a foster child in the care of the tyrannical Miss Hannigan (Cameron Diaz), waiting for her real parents to come and take her home. One day, she is saved from a car accident by mayoral hopeful Will Stacks (Jamie Foxx), becoming a viral star. On the advice of his business advisor (Rose Byrne) and sleazy campaign manager (Bobby Cannavale), Stacks takes Annie into his home.
This is a film that was earmarked for a critical pasting from the day it was announced. Writer-director Will Gluck has reinvented the story for a new generation and a new social backdrop, in which Instagram and Twitter run politics and the world is all about image. His film isn’t flawless, but Annie certainly has its heart in the right place.
| "You can keep me as long as you want."
The updates to the songs are smartly done, with ‘Tomorrow’ benefiting from some innovative staging and ‘It’s a Hard Knock Life’ bursting to Stomp-inflected life. Many of the new songs, such as Sia’s Golden Globe-nominated ‘Opportunity’, are equally impressive.
There are, however, some musical missteps. These mostly involve Cameron Diaz’s genuinely hideous, toe-curling portrayal of Hannigan, which comes to an utterly irredeemable head with her awful ‘Easy Street’ duet with Bobby Cannavale. It’s a grotesquely cartoonish turn that manages to make her role in Sex Tape look respectable and her car-humping in The Counsellor resemble truly high art.
Quvenzhané Wallis is the film’s true star, though, elevating the material with her sunny performance. She’s a sublimely assured, confident performer beyond her years, buoyed by her record-breaking Oscar nom for Beasts of the Southern Wild. Her enthusiasm is infectious and brings a real energy to the film, benefiting from sparky chemistry with Jamie Foxx and Rose Byrne, who both embrace the film’s joyous goofiness.
| "Woah, my hair’s gigantic."
It’s not all plain sailing for the film, though, which leans too heavily on its technological gimmickry and will soon feel very dated – a helicopter chase led by Instagram is a bizarre lowlight.
Despite this, though, Annie is a fun modern update of the musical tale with a great performance from one of the world’s most exciting young actresses.
Pop or Poop?
It’s not an instant classic and it has its problems, but Annie does a great job of bringing the musical into the modern era.
There’s a little too much social media groping and Cameron Diaz is utterly abysmal, but there’s a sunny feel to the entire thing, aided by Quvenzhané Wallis’ effortless work in the lead role.
It’s a shame that Annie has been generally dismissed by critics because it deserves to be recognised for what it is – a solid attempt to revamp the story for a new audience.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.