Sunday, December 28, 2014

Annie: It's the Hard Knock 21st Century Life

Right off the bat, I will confess that I have merely fast forwarded my way through the 1982 film adaptation of Annie and have absolutely nothing invested in the musical or its characters. I know the famous songs, but not all their lyrics, and apart from knowing that Annie is a red-headed orphan girl who is adopted by the rich Daddy Warbucks and ends up living happily ever after, I am largely oblivious about the plot. Therefore, I rather enjoyed the breezy 2014 Annie update starring Quvenzhane Wallis, but if you're a musical purist, this may not be the movie for you.

In this remake, Annie is an African-American girl who lives in a foster home in Harlem. The home is run by the drunk Mrs. Hannigan (Cameron Diaz) who fosters these girls for some cash and treats them fairly abominably. One day, Annie accidentally runs into Will Stacks (Jamie Foxx) a billionaire businessman who has decided to run for mayor of New York City. His numbers are flagging in the polls but his association with Annie gives him an instant boost in popularity. His PR team suggests he invite Annie over for lunch, but Annie, who is no fool, suggests that he would be even better off if he became her temporary guardian. Stacks is no fan of kids, but pressured by his team, he reluctantly agrees, and Annie moves into his home and, of course, eventually into his heart.

For a musical, Annie pays shockingly little attention to the music. It opens with rousing renditions of "Maybe," "Tomorrow," and a wonderfully choreographed "It's the Hard Knock Life" with all the young girls, but the music mostly takes a backseat for the rest of the film. Which is a good thing, because unless Wallis is singing, you really don't want to hear any of thees songs. None of these actors have been hired for their singing ability and while Wallis is talented and belts our a tune like nobody's business, the adult actors are an autotuned nightmare. The songs would be foot-tappingly good if they weren't sung so terribly, so I for one am glad that the songs petered out as the movie progressed.

Annie is a perfectly serviceable piece of holiday entertainment that will keep you occupied for two hours. It is well-paced, energetic, and rests squarely on the very capable shoulders of a talented young actress. The plot is predictable, but there are some twists and turns to keep you engaged. As long as you have nothing too invested in the history of this musical, you will be charmed by this film.

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