DIR: Will Gluck • WRI: Will Gluck, Aline Brosh McKenna • PRO: Jay Brown, Will Gluck, James Lassiter, Jada Pinkett Smith, Caleeb Pinkett, Tyran Smith, Will Smith, Jay Z • DOP: Michael Grady • ED: Tia Nolan • DES: Marcia Hinds • MUS: Greg Kurstin • CAST: Jamie Foxx, Quvenzhané Wallis, Rose Byrne
Remakes and sequels everywhere…and yet another nostalgic part of childhood has been revived and revised with the musical delights of ‘little orphan Annie’. Having grown up with the 1982 film version, where Daddy Warbucks’ heart was melted by the cheeky redhead he found on the streets, it seemed unnecessary to rehash a classic. However, though the modernisation of Annie is an unlooked-for present, it turns out to be a whimsical gift to a new generation of children.
The story has remained basically the same, save for the modern updates – particularly musical ones. Annie (Quvenzhané Wallis) is a foster child living in a cramped apartment with her fellow foster children, under the less-than-watchful eye of their carer, Colleen Hannigan (Cameron Diaz). A chance encounter with aspiring-mayor and successful businessman Will Stacks (Jamie Foxx) and his assistant Grace (Rose Byrne) leads to a relationship of convenience: Will needs Annie to make him look good to voters, and Annie gets to enjoy the richer side of life. But, of course, there are others who wish to profit from both Annie’s innocence and Stacks’ money. Based on the 1977 Broadway musical of the same name, (which took inspiration from the 1924 comic strip, in turn based on the 1885 poem!), and taking the mantel from the beloved 1982 film, this incarnation of ‘little orphan Annie’ brings the story to the modern streets of New York City.
Wallis is the perfect choice for playing Annie – being, as she is, a young child thrust into the spotlight at an early age. In 2012’s Beasts of the Southern Wild her Oscar-nominated performance astounded audiences, and she brings that very serious acting skill to Annie, along with a natural cheekiness that comes across in every scene. Foxx actually works very well as the stuffy businessman who eventually succumbs to Annie’s charms, and his surprisingly liquid singing voice fits the funky new sounds of the soundtrack. Diaz’s Hannigan is as hilariously perfect as a modern alcoholic foster-carer can be, and her singing and dancing is spot-on. Rose Byrne’s voice is by times lacklustre, but the combination of everyone wholeheartedly throwing themselves into each musical number is refreshingly fun.
Yes, there is the question of why we need remakes when the 1982 version is so beloved, and there is sometimes an ‘empty-vessel’ feeling to the film where it doesn’t quite connect with the emotions of the original, but this is a pleasurable update that children (especially younger ones) will enjoy. Certainly those around me were glued to every second of the story – literally sitting on the edge of their seats for the final scenes. Thanks, in part, to producers Jay-Z and Will Smith, the songs have been modernised and funkified, and the all-singing and all-dancing cast members look so gleefully involved in every moment that it’s nearly impossible not to get swept up with it!
PG (See IFCO for details)
Annie is released 19th December.