Remakes are always at a disadvantage. Regardless of the final product’s quality, it will always be compared to the film it’s adapting. Remakes usually are stuck with two options: Either pay homage to the original and make fans happy or create something brand new and remake a film in name only. It’s sort of a damned if you, damned if you don’t situation.
Either path you choose will rub someone, somewhere the wrong way. In a situation where you can’t possibly win, it’s totally understandable how Annie tries to have as much fun as it can as it attempts to blend both new and old.
But in trying to please everyone, Annie pleases none.
Director: Will Gluck
Release Date: December 19, 2014
Annie is the story of little orphan sorry, foster kid Annie (Quvenzhané Wallis) as she’s stuck living under a terrible foster parent, Miss Hannigan (Cameron Diaz), and hopes every day that she’ll find her real parents. After cell phone mogul and New York City mayoral candidate, Benjamin Stacks (Jamie Foxx), saves her from a hit and run accident, the two pal around for publicity. Through their time spent together, the two realize they think they’ll like it here. Then the sun comes out.
A good litmus test as to how much you’ll enjoy this latest rendition of the famous musical is the film’s opening. After a nice prelude featuring a mix of the musical’s well known themes, we’re introduced to a little red haired girl named Annie. She tap dances then is mockingly sent to her desk before the newest Annie loudly proclaims how much cooler she is. And that scene sets the tone for the rest of the film as it tries to distance itself as much as it can from its less hip history. As “coolness” influences the rest of the film, we’re left with odd remixes, poor musical staging (and very rough choreography), and several new songs produced for the film. It’s just a matter of how much you’re willing to sit through a film that insults both its source material and the people who enjoy it.
The original songs and new arrangements would’ve been fine had they not been so badly handled. An overt use of autotune (especially noticeable during the film’s atrocious “I Think I’m Gonna Like It Here”) saps the cast of all energy once they have to lip sync to the robot voices. And it’s weird to see more attention paid to one of the film’s newer pieces like the song “Moonquake Lake,” (which is a theme to a joke that overlasts its welcome after two minutes) than say “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile,” which gets pushed to the background the scene after. It’s like who ever produced Annie wanted to write an entirely new musical built on Sia sung pop tunes, but had to use the name in order to make any money. There’s a noticeable lack of comfort from the cast when they perform the film’s songs, and this awkward scenery weighs down what good there is.
It’s just a shame because the stuff in between the music is well put together. There is nary a hint of cynicism to be had as the cast is believable. Quvenzhané Wallis is such a good choice for Annie, and her delivery and preciousness is never anything but enjoyable. Jamie Foxx seems to be enjoying himself, Rose Byrne doesn’t do much but is charming, and the dialogue is actually witty. Even when it’s corny, it’s so full of genuine heart, it’s acceptable. It’s never overbearingly saccharine. The only blip on all of this is Cameron Diaz. A victim of a washed out role, she is the worst portrayal of Miss Hannigan in Annie‘s many years of production. From a performance that’s too cheap for the film (it’s way too on the nose even when the film doesn’t call for it), to a shoddy new arrangement for “Little Girls” which only highlights her lack of talent.
That’s what confuses me so much about Annie. No matter how much I wanted to like it, I was constantly reminded of how I shouldn’t be enjoying myself (though kids won’t mind either way, really. There are worst films to take your kids to). While there’s no cynicism in the story itself, there is a density in the way it’s been put together. It’s like whoever produced this hated themselves the entire time and wanted us to feel the same way. It’s a constant back and forth between enjoyment and self loathing. That’s not how I wanted to see Annie.
Don’t bet your bottom dollar on Annie. There’s no sun here.