On the Silver Screen – Annie
Will Gluck’s Annie is a modern retelling of the Little Orphan Annie story. This isn’t something I’m an expert in but as usual wikipedia provides. I’m actually surprised that it took this long to do a modernisation of this character with all the other reboots and remakes flying around.
The story here is that Annie (Quvenzhané Wallis) gets a chance to escape her “Hard Knock Life” when a New York Mayoral candidate named Will Stacks (Jamie Foxx) takes her in to boost his campaign. The result is a learning experience as Annie finds a place to belong and Stacks awakens compassion he never knew he had.
As executed the film is perfectly fine. It flows fairly well with decent pacing and the characters are well realised if a little simplistic. There are absolutely no surprises in the narrative but that’s not necessarily a bad thing if it’s well put together.
There was a lot about the characters I really liked. Quvenzhané Wallis is a very likeable Annie and exudes a lot of charisma in her performance. She’s a good singer too which is fairly essential for this role. I also applaud them for the colourblind casting here. Annie is typically a white redhead so choosing to throw that out of the window is incredibly progressive and this film proves that this change makes no difference. Interestingly, the concept of a black Little Orphan Annie was the main plot in the first episode of Boston Legal. It played on my mind throughout my viewing of this film.
Jamie Foxx plays an interestingly clueless business tycoon with Mayoral ambitions. Some of the best laughs in the film are seeing him struggle his way through every day things. It’s funny to watch him mess up his own campaign so completely with no real idea why. His growing relationship with Annie is well played as he gradually becomes less formal with her. Foxx plays this transition really well and manages to give some life to what would otherwise be a bland character.
Rose Byrne’s Grace is something of a minor role but she does a good job with what she’s given. There are plenty of laughs at her fawning over Stacks while he is oblivious. It’s a subplot with a predictable resolution but Byrne is a lot of fun to watch and her accent was pretty impressive.
I don’t normally like Cameron Diaz in films but her Hannigan was really good. Seeing her play a woman aware of how quickly she is losing her looks is a refreshing change and she does that quite well. There’s a vulnerability to her to compensate for her over the top mean spirited attitude. It’s clear that she’s putting it on to mask her own insecurities. She clearly cares a great deal for Annie despite not showing it and her arc is all about accepting the kindness within her.
Even if you don’t know the story, the music will probably be familiar to you. There’s a pseudo modernisation of many of the classic songs here but there’s not a lot of work done to remove the showtune sound from them. There’s nothing wrong with that but there was clearly an attempt to update them so I wonder why they didn’t go all out. I enjoyed the songs immensely and the actors did a great job performing them.
Beyond the predictability of the story some of the film looks a little cheap. There are many scenes designed to seem grand and sweeping but just come off looking really underwhelming. Many of the jokes don’t really work for me as well despite the fact that I did laugh more than I expected to.
Another major pitfall of the film is Annie’s character arc or lack thereof. I didn’t get the impression that she changed an awful lot by what she experienced. She was the same carefree young woman throughout the film. Her situation at the start of the film doesn’t really seem that bad either. It would have been easy to give her a more difficult living situation but it all seems fine.
A fairly average film that isn’t daring enough to be offensive. The story and characters are competently executed with some catchy musical numbers along the way.
Quvenzhané Wallis is great as the titular character with Jamie Foxx and Cameron Diaz providing very competent backup. Rose Byrne’s performance is also worthy of note here.
Much of the film looks cheap and Annie has little in the way of a character arc but on the whole it’s a pretty enjoyable film. It’s entirely forgettable but good fun while it lasts.