Friday, 5 June 2015

Annie

Directed by Will Gluck and out now on Blu-Ray and DVD comes Annie, an updated version of the classic stage and screen musical of the same title. Originally set in the 1930’s under the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt, the setting of this remake is updated to present day New York City. The film opens with a young, red haired girl, the traditional image of the character ‘Annie’ standing at the front of a classroom. As the camera scans across the room, we are soon introduced to our actual lead, played by African American actress, Quvenzhane Wallis. Annie is, in this representation, fostered by Colleen Hannigan (Cameron Diaz), an unkind, non-maternal figure, made bitter by her failed career as an R&B singer. Left with a note from her birth parents promising to come back for her as soon as they are able, Annie waits outside a restaurant she knows they once visited, every Friday night in the vain hope of seeing her mother and father there. 


We are soon introduced to the character of Will Stacks (Jamie Foxx), a billionaire mobile phone entrepreneur, turned mayoral candidate. Stacks, becoming increasingly unpopular with voters after a series of unfortunate public appearances, runs into Annie, narrowly saving her from being run over by an oncoming vehicle. The rescue, which goes viral after being recorded and uploaded to the internet by an onlooker, helps increase Stacks’ popularity in his run for mayor. On the advice of his campaign manager, Guy (Bobby Cannavale), Stacks invites Annie to come and stay with him at his luxury penthouse apartment. Annie is an instant hit with the public and Stacks popularity continues to increase. While Annie loves life living with Stacks, who grows increasingly fond of her, she still longs to meet her real parents, which leads to complications along the way. 


As a lifelong fan of both the stage and screen versions of the musical Annie, and after hearing scathing reviews of this version, it has to be said I approached it with some caution. I was however, pleasantly surprised. The songs, while updated with an R&B twist, were still familiar enough for me to find myself singing along. Wallis’ interpretation of Annie is much smarter and more streetwise than the original character, bringing an edge to her performance of the song ‘Tomorrow’, which I, as a fan of this musical, have never before experienced. The film has a comedic element to it, which can feel slightly unnecessary and at some points even, cringe worthy. This I especially felt towards the character Mrs. Kovacevic (Stephanie Kurtzuba), particularly her ‘comedy’ moments during the inspection of Will Stacks apartment and the performance of ‘I think I’m gonna like it here’. Cameron Diaz’s portrayal of Miss Hannigan, the inept foster mother of Annie and several other young girls, who drinks too much and shamelessly flirts with any man who may knock on her door, provides the best comedy character in my opinion. I enjoyed, in particular, the scene where she converses with Will Stacks through the window of his limousine, while he mistakes her for a prostitute.

If what you are hoping to get from a film is a meaty storyline, something to get involved in or to get you thinking then this is probably not the right movie for you. I found this version of Annie an easy watch, while still being entertained. While the events that unwind during the course of the film have been changed and some principal roles from the original story have been eliminated, with new characters introduced in their place, the storyline still remains, in the large part, the same happy ending tale that it always was. While watching this film, although different to the traditional ‘Annie’, represented by its predecessors, I found myself smiling with the familiar, sunny feeling inside that I have experienced with this story since childhood.


Although I cannot say that this movie is not without its faults, all in all, I enjoyed this movie for what it was, a light hearted, easy to watch, musical film, which is suitable for the whole family to enjoy.

Annie gets a Hard Knock, 3/5.

★★★☆☆

Gareth Thompson


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