Annie (2014)

Annie (2014)
  • Time: 118 min
  • Genre: Comedy | Drama | Family
  • Director: Will Gluck
  • Cast: Quvenzhane Wallis, Jamie Foxx, Cameron Diaz


Academy Award® nominee Quvenzhané Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild) stars as Annie, a young, happy foster kid who’s also tough enough to make her way on the streets of New York in 2014. Originally left by her parents as a baby with the promise that they’d be back for her someday, it’s been a hard knock life ever since with her mean foster mom Miss Hannigan (Cameron Diaz). But everything’s about to change when the hard-nosed tycoon and New York mayoral candidate Will Stacks (Jamie Foxx) – advised by his brilliant VP, Grace (Rose Byrne) and his shrewd and scheming campaign advisor, Guy (Bobby Cannavale) – makes a thinly-veiled campaign move and takes her in. Stacks believes he’s her guardian angel, but Annie’s self-assured nature and bright, sun-will-come-out-tomorrow outlook on life just might mean it’s the other way around.


  • Let’s start with the positive: there can’t possibly be a more joyless, shoddily made, terribly acted, clumsily written movie this holiday season than the latest film adaptation of the stalwart stage musical Annie.

    When the plucky redheaded orphan was first brought to the screen in 1982, it was generally met with mixed reviews with most critics questioning director John Huston’s connection to the material (the legendary helmer was the hardest of men, with a personality and temperament to rival that of Ernest Hemingway) and Martin Charnin, the lyricist of the Tony Award-winning musical, completely dismissing the film version. For all its debated faults, the 1982 film was an arguably entertaining affair with the actors, not all professionally trained, expertly conveying the emotions in the songs’ lyrics and choreographer Joe Layton staging wonderful musical numbers. For all the headscratching over Huston, the choice made sense: this was a man who loved underdogs and Little Orphan Annie fits that bill.

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  • This film is not recommended.

    Annie, Will Gluck’s musical film, and I am using that term loosely, is wrong-headed in concept and execution. After two vain attempts to film the successful Broadway hit, this latest version sucks all the life and last glimmers of hope that was so evident in the original production. Updated to present-day NYC, this new updated version Whereas, the Broadway musical had buckets of charm, a great score sung by talented performers that stressed comedy, and a book that clung to the nostalgic memories of the twenties, this debacle has anti-charm, alters the score with synthesized percussion and bombastic orchestrations, distorts songs so poorly crooned by non-singers (with the sole exception of Mr. Foxx who has some vocal talents and rhythm), and a dumbed-down script that resorts to food-spitting as high comedy (at least three times). It’s just awful.

    The screenplay by Aline Brosh McKenna and the director never finds the right footing. In this Annie, our plucky heroine is not an orphan, but a foster child in search of her parents. She is still living with the self-absorbed Miss Hannigan, now a wash-up singer from the 90’s pop group, C +C Music Factory. Daddy Warbucks becomes Will Stacks, a mysophobic businessman running for mayor. They meet and Annie becomes his photo opportunity until his heart is melted by this young ragamuffin. The film uses the original source as an outline, losing all the clever repartee and creating new dialog that is contemporary sounding for all the worse reasons. (Example: When looking for the dog, Sandy, to adopt, Stacks says to Annie: “Don’t pick that one! It’s licking its own who-ha.” Moments of this sophistication just can’t express my total displeasure with this film adaptation.)

    Gluck’s heavy-handed direction is everywhere. No one can escape it. The director can’t stage a scene with any musical flair. The dancing is sloppy, the singing merely adequate, and the acting settles into non-stop mugging. The wondrous score from Charlie Strouse and Martin Charnin is as diluted as the filmmakers. Many of the musical numbers are throwaway moments and never build to anything resembling entertainment. (Only one song, It’s a Hard-Knock Life, at least, has some energy and fun.)

    Quvenzhané Wallis plays the title role and she does look cute enough to play Annie, but she has a limited vocal range and comes off as saccharine and insincere. The aforementioned Mr. Foxx has some style, but is given little to do except look grumpy and bothered until he transforms, due to his love for the little tyke, into a lovesick sap. As Stack’s helpful crew, Rose Bryne is wasted and Bobby Cannavale is an embarrassment of riches. Coming off worse of all is Cameron Diaz playing Miss Hannigan. It would be unfair to compare her performance to the legendary Dorothy Loudon. Let’s just say Ms. Diaz is just loud and leave it at that. (That she plays this comic villainess as cruel and seriously hateful only shows her misinterpretation of the role and serious miscasting of the part of Mr. Gluck.) Sadly, this film is one-stop-shopping to find these actors’ worst performance in their careers.

    The film has the New York vibe, but it seems to be in its own alternate universe, gritty but not too gritty, real, but not too real. The production design by Marcia Hinds is dreadful (Stacks’ penthouse looks like a modern architecture horror inspired by George Jetson.), the costumes by Renee Ehrlich Kalfus are unflattering and do little to endear the characters, and the cinematography by Michael Grady is non-descript at best.

    Perhaps, I should stop here, looking toward a better tomorrow when the sun will come up once again. But this feel-good movie just made me feel all so bad. So, I will end with this warning: Taking your family to see this film is a form of child abuse. This Annie deserves to be alone. GRADE: D

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