Little orphan Annie gets a new lease on life when she meets a businessman running for political office.
For many, including myself, the word ‘Annie’ instantly conjures up the 1982 feature musical with Albert Finney and directed by John Huston. Yes, the John Huston who directed The Maltese Falcon and starred in Chinatown.
It’s not the best musical ever made but it has its own kind of grimy appeal, with a couple of decent tunes and a slightly off-kilter approach to the dance sequences which makes it memorable. Plus it was drummed into me as a child.
So any new version of Annie is going to be difficult for me to get my head around but I was willing to be open-minded for Sony’s latest effort. For one, it’s written and directed by Will Gluck – the decent filmmaker behind Easy A and Fired Up, both of which are a lot of fun. And the production nabbed young Quvenzhané Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild) as the lead.
But the results are very much a mixed bag.
This new Annie certainly has a lot of energy, from the interactive title sequence to an actual car chase as the finale approaches. Wallis runs and smiles and is precocious with every fibre of her being and there are familiar faces like Jamie Fox, Rose Byrne and Cameron Diaz everywhere you look.
It’s just severely lacking in craic.
The new versions of the old songs are autotuned like nobodies business and there isn’t a single memorable dance number in the (bloated) 118 minute running time. Unless you count the terribly awful ‘I Think I’m Gonna Like It Here.’ Byrne is no dancer.
Only one new tune, ‘Opportunity,’ makes any real impression the film bizarrely leaves professional singer Foxx out of most of the numbers. Instead they decided to give Diaz an interminable version of ‘Little Girls’ that was another nail in the coffin of her ridiculously over the top character.
All that said, the performances in general are decent and the film manages to appeal most when it features proper acting moments between pros like Foxx and Wallis. But the whole thing never really sells its musical aspects, and in fact doesn’t even seem to know whether it’s self-aware or not.
Disappointing, and simply not a patch on the real Annie.