Our Score: 3 out of 5 stars
I need to be upfront with everyone. I have never seen any previous creation of “Annie”. I’ve never laid eyes upon the 1982 original film adaptation, I haven’t viewed a live stage production, or have taken the time to watch either made-for-TV movies on the little orphan. Like most though, I do know the basic premise, and the songs “Tomorrow” and “It’s the Hard Knock Life”. I also have fond memories of the delightful scene in “Serial Mom” where a woman is battered to death while singing along to the movie. I’m not telling you to not to take my opinion seriously or with a grain of salt, but just keep in mind, I had no expectations. With that said, “Annie” is probably your best bet for family fun this holiday season.
Annie (Wallis) is a cheeky young girl gallivanting around Harlem and searching for her parents, believing that they will return to her one day. Then they will be the happy family she dreams they will be. Annie lives with other foster children in the care of Miss Colleen Hannigan (Cameron Diaz). She’s soaked in booze and uses every vocal opportunity she has to put Annie down.
In the much nicer, cleaner and more brightly lit part of town, is Will Stacks (Foxx). He’s an isolationist cell phone tycoon and an absolute germaphobe. Not as bad as Howard Hughes though. His habits don’t mix well with his current mission, to become the mayor of New York City. Watching him in action, you actually wonder how someone like him went along with the idea of becoming a public official for one of the world’s largest cities in the first place. At one point he spits up mashed potatoes on a homeless person.
So by pure chance, these two meet. Stacks “saves” Annie’s life and he quickly disregards Annie, right after applying some hand sanitizer, as to not get any poor on him. His circle of trust, the lovely Grace (Byrne) and the skeevy Guy (Bobby Canavale) see the potential to increase his likeability amongst the populace by having him temporarily adopt Annie. Annie simply sees this as another great opportunity in life although she’s fully aware she’s a political ploy. Hijinks, flashy tech, and montages ensue along with some catchy tunes that I haven’t heard besides the aforementioned songs.
The highest praise I can give this movie isn’t to the movie itself, but to Rose Byrne and Quvenzhane Wallis. The actresses already radiate a delightful charm by themselves, but together they’re quite endearing. Their scenes together feel like the most genuine among any of the other characters. While most dialogue in “Annie” feels hokey or nauseatingly cute, the conversations between their two characters feel honest. It’s almost like they give each other some meaningful girl power to help propel their own self-esteem and optimistic outlook.
Outside of that, there are a list of negatives, including an overacting Cameron Diaz, an odd pro and anti-capitalist slant, and hit or miss self-aware winks towards the camera; just to name a few. What had me push all those aside is the charming energy this pumped into me. I tapped my toes, I smiled, I laughed, and if you have any kind of happy reaction to something, it’s worth noting.
While I may have nothing to compare “Annie” to in terms of its predecessors and stories, I must note that it comes off playfully mocking towards the original source content. It’s almost like it knows that what it’s doing is sure to piss some people off, such as fans of the original. Well. I’m not a fan of the original. I enjoyed its taunts, its urban take on the original score, and it’s smug cuteness.