There were two distinct reactions coming from the news releases about the Annie remake. There was a collective groan from the cynics who like to complain about how Hollywood has no fresh ideas, and there was also a lot of excitement from social justice communities about a black Annie. Which side won out with the final product? That really depends on how charming you find Quvenzhané Wallis as the title character – as for me, I was sold and think it’s one of the best musicals of the past ten years.
The story doesn’t differ much from the 1982 John Huston version. Little orphan (well, foster child) Annie is living with Ms Hannigan (Cameron Diaz) because her parents abandoned her as a child. She is eventually brought to live with a Daddy Warbucks type, Willy Stacks (Jamie Foxx), who isn’t too hot on the idea until he falls victim to the charm of this girl and decides to adopt her.
The cynics could very easily have been right about this film and I will give them one point before getting into all the great aspects of this movie. Cameron Diaz is horrible here, overacting everything she’s given and looking completely out of place given how down to earth Wallis is in the main role. Her performance is cringeworthy and almost sinks the movie.
However, the movie is saved and actually soars a number of times because of Quvenzhané Wallis. Really it can be boiled down to the opening scene. How you react to this opening will determine what you think of the film. Annie is sitting in her history class listening to a redhead girl (also named Annie because low hanging meta-humour) give a presentation on President William Henry Harrison. She finishes and sits down as the teacher calls the other Annie to the front to present. Annie gets up without a paper prepared but says it’s all in her head. She then gets the different parts of her class to bang on their desks in different ways to represent the story of Franklin D. Roosevelt, contrasting the rich and the poor and critiquing the legacy of the New Deal.
The rhythm created by the other students is really dynamic and interesting and the story feels a little more complicated than you would expect from a ten-year-old – but it’s not meant to be realistic. This scene is trying to sell you on Wallis in this role and needless to say it sold me. The rest of the cast (aside from Diaz) is equally charming, with Foxx reminding us of his charisma after his flop as Electro earlier this year, and Rose Byrne bringing a kindheartedness that often gets lost in her more mean-spirited roles.
The bottom line is that this is an entertaining if flawed remake that succeeds far more than it fails, and if you can get lost in the charm of Quvenzhané Wallis then you will have a good time.
— Mynt Marsellus