Leaping lizards, the new Annie adaptation is disappointing. Director Will Gluck’s modern reimagining of the 1977 Broadway musical (which itself was loosely based on the 1924 comic strip Little Orphan Annie) depreciates its charm, classic songs, and the talents of this ensemble.
In this new, reworked version, the iconoclastic Annie (Quvenzhané Wallis) has gone from being a cardigan-wearing, charming little orphan with an unfortunate bright red ‘fro, to a fashionable and smiling foster child who is devoid of any winning spark. But lo and behold, the girl sure knows how to hustle, better than the other four foster girls living in boozy Miss Hannigan (a miscast Cameron Diaz)’s care. (The song “Gold Digger” sprung to mind repeatedly while watching the film).
When one day she is rescued from an oncoming car by the germaphobic telecommunications titan Will Stacks (Jamie Foxx), she confidingly games the opportunity to aid him in his mayoral campaign in exchange for a temporary stay at his outlandishly lavish condo, high atop New York City. There, she befriends his advisor Grace (the always winsome Rose Byrne), driver Nash (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, the best part of the dreadful Pompeii ), and her beloved “dumb dog” Sandy.
Oh and did we mention the singing? Autotune hasn’t been this overly used since the last Britney Spears album or Glee cast recordings. One presumes that upon first hearing Quvenzhané belt out “Tomorrow” or Cameron Diaz warble “Little Girls”, the fine folks in the recording studio would have instantly tinkered with the quality. However there was little reason for them to alter Jamie Foxx’s voice for his songs (however forgettable they may be). The orchestrations, too, are strangely loud.
This is not a stodgy purist’s Annie, in fact it’s far from it. But then, it didn’t need to be. This is Annie for a new, younger generation and it hugely succeeds in this demographic. At the screening that we attended, there were little girls literally dancing in the aisles during the song and dance numbers, and joyfully clapped when it was over. It just did not work for us. We found it to have too many hard knocks and not nearly enough life.