Review: The Sun Won’t Come Out Tomorrow For “Annie”
Director: Will Gluck
Screenwriter: Will Gluck (screenplay), Aline Brosh McKenna (screenplay), Thomas Meehan (stage play book), and Harold Gray (comic strip “Little Orphan Annie”)
Principal Cast: Quvenzhané Wallis, Jamie Foxx, Rose Byrne, Bobby Cannavale, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, and Cameron Diaz
Every year someone decides that a musical is going to be the next big movie for the holiday season. Sometimes there are more than one that will surface with a modern remake of the classic. Annieis hitting theaters this week and Into the Woods on Christmas Day. Annie had been adapted to movies before, and this movie is a re-make of that movie basically. So we have a movie, based on a movie, based on a musical, that was based on a comic strip (would you like to know more?). For some reason the casting for this version of Annie drew a lot of ire from certain sectors of society about the urban setting and predominantly black cast. Aside from that casting decision Annie has really only seen promotion as Oscar bait seeking to capitalize on the popularity of the musical.
Annie might be progressive with its lead actors and setting, but it does nothing to cover up the fact that it’s totally generic.
Our story follows Annie (Quvenzhané Wallis), an orphan living in a foster home in Brooklyn, headed by the wicked Ms. Hannigan (Cameron Diaz). Annie is determined to find her real family that she is convinced is out there somewhere. Will Stacks (Jamie Foxx) is a billionaire that is trying to run for mayor, but his public image isn’t doing very well. When Stacks saves Annie from getting hit by a car, it makes the two of them media sensations. Stacks, with the help of his assistants Grace (Rose Byrne) and Guy (Bobby Cannavale), decides to take in Annie for the remainder of the campaign to help soften his image to voters.
So we have the plucky little orphan Annie trying to help a billionaire become mayor, despite the fact that he has no experience. I’m going to set aside the manipulation of voters and the facts that Sacks is essentially trying to lie and buy his way into office because the movie does a great job of skipping that as well. It’s an interesting angle, the idea that someone can buy their way into office by manipulating social media, but the movie never looks at that from a bad angle. There are a few people who tell Stacks that this is a bad idea, but no one really seems as outraged as they should be by a grown man using a kid as a prop. It’s one of the more modern ideas that Annie decides not to really address. Stacks made his fortune on cell phones, and at one point they try to find Annie’s parents by looking into private cell phone record (a side character comments about how “it’s not the government you should be worried is watching you but cell phone companies”). The new setting was supposed to be the hook of his entire enterprise, but it feels like they don’t really do anything with it.
The casting was a major misstep as well. Quvenzhané Wallis has an okay voice, but she isn’t an actor made for this type of production. When I was watching the Thanksgiving Day Parade the cast of Annie had a float, and when they zoomed in on Wallis my first thought was that she looked terrified. I thought maybe that was just the medium, but there were moments during some of the big song moments where Wallis looked like she’d rather be anywhere else. She’s a promising young actress but far from the stage kid they needed. Jamie Foxx is the other one that felt off to me. We don’t get a song from him until the movie is more than halfway over, and even then my first thought was that he sounded like Kanye West. He was so autotuned that it was nearly laughable. Cameron Diaz as Hannigan is also a miscast because she really can’t sing, but I almost feel like that was supposed to be part of the joke? If they really cast a woman because she can’t sing because the character isn’t supposed to be able to sing very well, then we’ve crossed the pretentious line. She also didn’t come off nearly mean enough to play Hannigan. Rose Byrne is really the only one whose voice felt strong and true.
The easiest way to determine if a movie has poor pacing is whether or not you get bored or antsy, and I got very bored and very antsy during Annie. It takes far too long for Annie and Stacks to meet and decide to manipulate voters (yes I really have a problem with this). I understand that we’re trying to establish Annie as a person so we sympathise with her, but it started to get silly. There are also the set amount of songs they need to cover before Stacks can enter the picture, but there were plenty of opportunities that could have been trimmed to save time. The overlong running time almost makes the characters annoying, and after a while I didn’t really care that much about Stacks or Annie, which says a lot. If a movie cannot make me root for the abandoned orphan, a task which shouldn’t take any effort at all, then there have been some serious mistakes along the way.
If it sounds like I’m coming down extremely hard on this movie let me just say that it wasn’t bad. There were a few things here and there that I liked, but none of them stuck around long enough to distract me from the things I didn’t like. The product placement was also one of the least subtle I’ve seen in awhile, but this is Sony so I shouldn’t be surprised. It was just generic, predictable, and even a little boring. The best moment in the movie is a joke at the beginning, with a redhead in Annie’s classroom whose name just also happens to be Annie. The second best joke was the mock movie premiere that everyone attended, mostly because it is something I could really see getting made.
Annie went into the world with the intention of putting a new spin on a musical that we all know and ends up being the opposite. This movie is utterly disposable and no one will remember it a month later. I wouldn’t worry about it though; this is going to be a repeat of 2012 and Les Miserables where the award show season insists that this movie was a lot better than it actually was.