I hate to beat a dead horse but.
This is a very dead horse. And with such potential! I thought refreshing Annie’s story, bringing her into the 21st century, plopping her down into Harlem, and casting her as the lovely and fresh-faced Quvenzhane Wallis were all very wise and exciting decisions, so why then, does the movie have no charm?
Annie lives with mean foster mom Miss Hannigan (Cameron Diaz), who in this version is a C+C Music Factory has-been. I wondered if they would drop the drunk act, which always feels so inappropriate to me, but nope, Cameron slurs and stumbles through her routine, not quite selling the terrible things coming out of her mouth (though she does excel at the more flirtatious\salacious bits). Annie is recruited to go live with New York’s richest man, William Stacks, owner of a successful cell phone franchise, who just happens to also be running for mayor and his shrewd campaign manager (Bobby Canavale) sees her as a potential boost in approval ratings.
No one in this film should be doing a musical – with the possible exception of Jamie Foxx, who’s done well enough before, but you’d never guess it if this was your only proof. The old songs are mistreated, and the new ones are flat. And the choreography, if you can call it that? So lacklustre it’s awkward. Director Will Gluck has no business doing a musical. Neither does Cameron Diaz, and if you can recall her stunningly bad karaoke performance in My Best Friend’s Wedding, then you know she’s the first to admit it. Why then, does her song “Little Girls” steal the show? Not because it’s good, because it isn’t, though Sia’s re-worked it so complements Diaz’s lack of vocal range and talent. But she owns it. At least her sloppiness is intentional.
Wallis is adorable though, and works as an antidote for all our pent-up political cynicism. That’s when the movie teeters into “just okay” status, up from its usual “totally blah”. Looking back, the version of Annie that I loved as a kid doesn’t quite pass muster either, but there’s pluck and spirit and goddamn Carol Burnett! This one just isn’t trying hard enough.