Watch my Movie Minute Review of Annie:

It all started with the comic strip Little Orphan Annie back in 1924.  From there, the story has been adapted into several movies, and of course, a Broadway musical.  If this new movie musical was the original, it would not inspire future generations to make their own version.  It would only be to improve on it.  This new version comes off lazy and amateurish.  It starts off well though. The film opens with a red-headed white girl named Annie, presenting to her class while tap-dancing, but then she sits down and Annie B. (our real heroine) is up next.  Then the opening credits with Annie rushing through the streets of New York City features musical beats of the city to accompany the overture score. It’s kinda cool, but it’s all downhill from there.

Quvenzhané Wallis AnnieThe biggest problem is that it accepts that it’s going to be a kids’ movie.  This isn’t an intelligent family flick, but keeps things insanely simplistic.  It doesn’t even quite understand social media. My favourite “huh?” moment was when a passerby records Will Stacks (Jamie Foxx) saving Annie (Quvenzhané Wallis) from getting hit by a car on his iPhone, and when the video is posted on YouTube, it somehow cuts to another camera angle in the middle of the heroic moment.  The guy with his iPhone had multiple cameras?

The film does have a solid and game cast.  Jamie Foxx knows his way around his musical but looks slightly embarrassed here. Rose Byrne has sparkled every time she’s been on the big screen in her developing career, but here she’s underutilized and she can’t really carry a tune. Bobby Cannavale has a solid voice, but doesn’t seem that comfortable playing such a cartoonish role.  Even cameos by Ashton Kutcher, Mila Kunis, Michael J. Fox, and Rihanna are uneventful.  Cameron Diaz is playing to the rafters as Miss Hannigan. She’s exhausting by the end.  Thank goodness Sandra Bullock declined this role.

The cast is fronted by Quvenzhané Wallis, who scored an Oscar nomination for Beasts Of The Southern Wild in 2013.   All the charisma and spunk that made her the youngest Best Actress nominee ever is absent here.  She seems bored and distant.  She unfortunately does not have a strong singing voice either.  Most of the cast restorts to talk-singing or auto-tuned, which means you won’t be rushing to buy the soundtrack to sing along to.

At 118 minutes, it’s way too long for what is essentially trying to be a lightweight family flick.  The bar has been raised big-time for films that appeal to families (thank you, Pixar), so phoning it in because “kids don’t need to watch something intelligent or clever” just doesn’t pass anymore.  This isn’t a disaster for anyone (Jay Z, Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith are among the film’s producers), but it certainly won’t be a highlight on anyone’s resume.  There’s a lot of talent both in front and behind the camera, but no one makes this new Annie escape her hard knock life.  

Grade:  C-

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