With all the theatre that I’ve been involved with, I’ve been fortunate to have avoided ever doing Annie. I’ve seen the musical on-stage a few times and the older movies a few times as well, leaving me feeling empty inside. I find the character so obnoxious and the story a bit absurd, but I was honestly intrigued by this latest theatrical adaptation, mainly because of its casting choices. Thankfully, I have finally found an Annie which I can enjoy.
It’s a hard knock life for young Annie (Quvenzhane Wallis) and the other foster children living with her. There’s not too much to do during the day and they’re growing older, decreasing the likelihood that someone will adopt them. Ms. Hannigan (Cameron Diaz), their caretaker, is a vile women who enjoys making the girls do all her chores for her. Still, Annie remains hopeful that her parents will come back for her, as a note and a location keep her hopes up. Being different than most, Annie explores New York in search for the truth about her life, which one day leads her to almost be hit by a car.
Fortunately for her, Will Stacks (Jamie Foxx) was there to save her and someone caught it on camera. Why this matters is because Stacks is the billionaire owner of his own cellular company and he’s running for Mayor. When the video bumps him up in the mayoral race, his right-hand-woman Grace (Rose Byrne) and his number 3, Guy (Bobby Canavalle), advise Stacks to take Annie in for publicity. As time goes by, Stacks sees that Annie is more than just a publicity stunt and they bond through songs, food, and quality time.
Annie is a welcome surprise this year, as its light-hearted and modern approach to the classic musical is both refreshing and very aware of what it’s trying to accomplish. The film doesn’t take itself all that seriously and is certainly catered for children, but that doesn’t mean that teenagers and adults won’t enjoy the music and the characters. With this film, all memories of the obnoxious, red-headed orphan Annie are thrown out the window and this new incarnation makes a lasting and smile-worthy impression that’s sure to resonate well with audiences.
Quvenzhane Wallis is perhaps the cutest thing ever in this movie, as every line and note that comes out of her mouth is amazing. She plays Annie with some spunk, but moreso with a general appreciation for everything in her life. She’s optimistic, but she also gets how the world works. She reads people well and adjusts her attitude in order to get what she wants/needs. Her chemistry with her much older co-stars is magical and the emotion that she brings to the role is quite touching. Rest assured, her talent and voice are for real and she’s the best Annie that there’s ever been.
Jamie Foxx is more renowned for his serious roles, so watching him cut loose and sing some songs for fun is incredibly entertaining. He’s not a bad guy in the film, he’s just misunderstood and doesn’t fully get himself. His interactions with Annie and his growing care for her are very sweet to watch and that sweetness only doubles when Rose Byrne comes into play. Byrne has the greatest personality and unbeknownst to most, a very lovely voice. She and Wallis make a cute pairing of friends and Byrne gives us one of her finest characters yet.
For as much “controversy” as there has been surrounding this film, I really enjoyed this take on Annie. They poke fun at the original red-headed Annie in the beginning and then the story starts. The film doesn’t go to lengths to emphasize that this is a different story with a black lead. Instead, it tells a regular story and thinks nothing of its casting choices. Well, except for the fact that most were exceptional. Wallis shines in the leading role and her outstanding vocals carry us throughout the film. The timeless music is more alive than ever and Foxx’s R&B voice adds some extra flair to it all.
Given that this film is geared towards children, everything seen/heard was taken with a grain of salt. Despite the cruel and unusual tendencies of Ms. Hannigan, Cameron Diaz felt very over-the-top and unfit for the role. She and Cannavale are reduced to caricatures who are both dopey and unrealistic. Their motives make no sense and the actions which they carry out are ridiculous. More inclusion of Annie’s relationships with the other orphans would have been nice too, as she does show care for them and includes them in some events. Foxx’s character’s wealth is also greatly exaggerated and his company a bit too unrealistic, both of which stem from the film trying a bit to hard to prove that it’s modern.
Annie is what “movies with the family” is all about and it makes for a fun trip to the theater. It’s a film that will easily appeal to all ages and it has the ability to offer up different things for those different ages. Quvenzhane Wallis has a bright career ahead of her and she was cast perfectly for this film. Jamie Foxx brings some style to the “timeless tale” and the music really rounds the film out. Sure, some of the characters are absurd, but they don’t detract from the overall story. The sun certainly came out after finishing this film.