Cinematic Releases: Annie

Just in time for Christmas, Annie comes back to theaters in this modernized version.

"It's so strange. I just can't
stop smiling."
Over 30 years later, little girls are still dressing up like the little red-haired orphan from the 1982 musical, Annie, and singing along to its hallmark tunes  "Tomorrow" and "It's the Hard-Knock Life".  That's some pretty serious staying power. Re-make a widely loved movie like this one, that (I have to believe) just about everyone in America has seen at least a few times, and be prepared for some intense scrutiny. The public's first reaction is inevitably going to be, "why mess with a classic?" The real question becomes, is there a good answer to that, or not?

True, this is not the first Annie re-make. In 1999 a made-for-TV version was released, starring Kathy Bates as the iconic under handed orphanage mistress, Miss Hannigan. That one at least knew its place, following the original story line basically to a T and, wisely, not trying to outdo the original Annie with a theatrical release.

I was intrigued at the idea of a modern, updated Annie, taking place in present day (making Annie a foster child instead of an orphan) New York City. I went into it with an open mind, ready to love it, as I love the original film and the Broadway production.

It wasn't a total bomb. Quvenzhan√© Wallis (known for being the youngest actress to ever be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress for her role as Hushpuppy in Beasts of the Southern Wild) is absolutely charming in the title role. She is adorable and talented; the perfect precocious wannabe adoptee. Jamie Foxx is totally acceptable as Will Stacks (there is no Daddy Warbucks - what??), the ambitious, successful businessman who begins his relationship with Annie as a means of improving his public persona and gaining votes in the mayoral election, before - inevitably - falling in love with her. 

"Annie. You're so weird.
Stop smiling all the time.
It's getting annoying."
On the other hand, Miss Hannigan is an integral part of the story, and Cameron Diaz as a drunkard, sub-par foster mom doesn't quite cut it. Nor does Bobby Cannavale, as the creepy-weird campaign adviser to Will Stacks. Rose Byrne plays a decent, but somewhat awkward, Grace. Additionally, the dialogue throughout is often unnatural and lackluster.

Despite these shortcomings, Wallis could have potentially carried the film if not for the matter of the music. The music is a huge part of what makes the original Annie great, and unfortunately, it's just not catchy in this version. Bringing the story into 2014 obviously meant updating the soundtrack, but they changed it up a little too much. Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't expect little girls are going to be donning red dresses and getting out their hairbrush-microphones to sing along. 

Another minor complaint: despite its Christmas time release, this latest Annie does not take place during the holiday season at all. That right there takes away some of its magic. There are several other plot changes (throw in a learning disability for the star, take away Miss Hannigan's conniving brother), but they're not really game changers. Fantastic music and good dialogue could have saved this movie from mediocrity, but instead it's just another re-make that falls short of its predecessor.

-Alysia George