- Movie Rating -

Annie (2014)

| December 19, 2014 | 0 Comments

In the past few days, critics have had a grand time running all over the new film version of Annie with a steamroller. It’s an easy movie to pick on. It’s corny. It’s flawed. It’s too long. The musical numbers are, for the most part, forgettable. Plus it has the single worst performance of Cameron Diaz’s career, which I’ll get to in a moment. But the movie is what it is. It’s fun. It’s bright. It’s Annie. It’s exactly what you expect.

For my money, I enjoyed it. It blooms with a good spirits, and it doesn’t put you off by being so cute and precious that you resist it. Despite being updated to the 21st century, the movie sticks close to the original source material: Annie (Quvenzhané Wallis) is a plucky orphan girl who lives the hard-knock life in foster care under the nasty Miss Hannigan (Diaz) but dreams of a better “Tomorrow.” One day she runs, literally, into the arms of Will Stacks (Jamie Foxx) a billionaire who saves her when she falls into the path of an oncoming van.

They find that they need each other. Annie is alone in the world, and Will needs a new image for his Mayoral campaign – especially after a video of him accidentally spitting mashed potatoes on a homeless man goes viral. So, Will invites her to stay with him for a few days while she helps him refurbish his image (footage of him saving Annie also goes viral). What blooms from there is a sweet father/daughter relationship between a little girl who never had a father and a man who never had, well, anyone.

The biggest question going into this movie for me was whether or not Quvenzhané Wallis could carry a mainstream movie after her brilliant Oscar-nominated performance in Beasts of the Southern Wild two years ago. The answer is yes. She’s a natural performer with a big open face and a lot of personality. If her performance seems a little precious at times, that comes from the material. She even manages to pull off the treacly “Tomorrow” in a way that, for the first time, didn’t make me want to stuff my popcorn in my ears.

She plays well off of Jamie Foxx, who probably has the biggest and friendliest personality of anyone working in movies right now. He turns in a fun performance that’s a lot better than his misfire earlier this year in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 because he’s required to simply be himself. As Will Stacks, he’s occupying the Daddy Warbucks role and he does it quite well.

Those are the good points. Now for the bad news. The movie does not work well as a musical. The songs are not only forgettable, but they’re spaced so far apart that you often forget that the movie is a musical. Plus, they don’t fit with the production design. This is a movie that takes place in the real world and in a story this abstract, it doesn’t fit. This was the same problem that plagued the 1982 movie version. “Annie” is not a story that fits well in the real world, it’s made for the stage. In order to capture its stage magic, the movie either needs to exist in an abstract world or be animated. Animation would be perfect since this property started as a comic strip.

It could also benefit from a better villain. As I said, Cameron Diaz gives the worst performance of her career as Annie’s hateful foster mother Miss Hannigan. Diaz’s performance is so over-the-top that it has the emotional resonance of Daffy Duck. Every motion, every line feels like Diaz is about to have a seizure – it’s that bad. When she comes on screen, she’s so unpleasant, you start counting the minutes until she’s gone. Cameron Diaz has a smile so big and sunny that it could light up Toledo. Here, her mouth is often twisted into deep frowns in a way that’s painful to watch.

Despite those issues, Annie is good-hearted. It’s not brilliant, but it does what the story is supposed to do. The two leads are fun, and the movie has a feeling of goodness about it. There’s nothing offensive or off-putting about it. You know what you like. You know who you are. You already know whether or not you’ll enjoy it. I know I did.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2014) View IMDB Filed in: Comedy, Kids, Musical, Recent