I was really looking forward to the new “Annie”. The trailer boasted of a diverse cast, a hip hop twist on some classic songs, and a new vision for a classic tale; what’s not to be excited about? While you’re kids may enjoy it, it’s a hard knock off for us!
Quvenzhane Wallis is Annie, a bright eyed foster kid living in Harlem. Her bitter foster mother Ms. Hannigan (Cameron Diaz) provides four walls and a roof over Annie and her foster sisters’ heads, but only for the paycheck. Annie wants to find her biological parents, and works hard at the local bodega ran by Lou (David Zayas) to earn under the table cash to get documents about her parents.
Elsewhere in Manhattan, billionaire cell phone mogul William Stacks (Jamie Foxx) is running for mayor and having a tough time seeing the poll numbers rise in his favor due to his lack of interpersonal skills. His assistant Grace (Rose Byrne) is a master political strategist with insecurity issues and a secret (or not) interest in her boss. Stacks pays Guy (Bobby Cannavale) to do his dirty work in politics.
After an awkward day of hitting the streets to help the homeless for political gain, Stacks’ SUV is put out of commission. He decides to walk for clarity and peace, and walks right into Annie. After saving her from near death (on cell phone footage from a bystander that’s miraculously cut together from two angles) the polls start moving in Stacks’ favor. Hence, the plot device for Annie to move in with Stacks and help him win the election.
Annie is hip to the political hustle and goes along with the story in exchange for her own demands. This is one of many issues with the film. Wallis has played the little girl who had to grow up too fast before in “Beasts of the Southern Wild” (an incredible performance), but it comes across as cheeky and artificial here. She fades in and out of confidence and being lost in the role. It doesn’t help that most of the adults around her are giving comical performances reminiscent of something from a mid 90’s Nickelodeon sitcom. Yeah, think “Keenan & Kel”. Foxx seems to be the only person aware of how poor the movie is as he steals the scenes he’s in, eventually culminating in hoping that he’s in every scene.
The main problem is that this remake has no heart and soul. It’s just a formulaic blockbuster that makes caricatures out of its characters rather than giving them room to deal with their insecurities, illiteracy, greed, alcoholism and other flaws that are touched on but barely explored. Perhaps a couple more weeks at the writer’s table could have helped.
There are a few nice moments, and songs in the film but that’s not saying much. The sun will come out tomorrow, but I doubt it will be shining favorably on this “Annie”.