Rental Corner: New “Annie” falls flat…dead flat
There’s an embarrassing story I must confess before I begin. A week into the new year, I actually tried to see the new “Annie” as part of a resolution but it didn’t last long. I was alone with no one in and by the time “It’s a Hard Knock Life” came on, I got up and left. 15 minutes was all I could last. But then, I thought maybe things would change when it would come out on home video. Perhaps I was in a different mood or atmosphere at the time. Well, I have to say that anything past those 15 minutes I don’t regret missing. Maybe a small thing here and there but the execution and everything else kills it to a beating pulp of crumbled screenplay paper.
Tempted to call it a remake, this new “Annie” is more of “remix” trying to be a contemporary take of the 1977 Broadway musical seeing it uses eight of the original songs and injects new score and lyrics to bring a modern style. I’m not against the idea of a modernization unless I feel its done good respect and justice. But in this case, next to nothing works. On paper, certain aspects could be salvageable but the choice in cast, the music and the overall delivery completely brings things to a lifeless and dull standstill. And this is coming from someone who wasn’t a big fan of the original musical or the 1982 film.
The movie literally opens with an Annie lookalike finishing a report on William Henry Harrison only to be greeted with groans and bored looks while the new Annie (Quvenzhane Wallis) tries to hip her ad-libbed report on Franklin D. Roosevelt with class participation and false information much to the confused look of the teacher (who says “Good job, Annie” with the magic of ADR). On top of that, she is no longer an orphan but in foster care while she awaits the return of her parents who abandoned her years ago. Unlike the previous versions, we never learn their fate and thus left to guess they are dead or written out for a sequel.
But let’s go back to the previously mentioned scene on how they introduce this Annie but saying the old was annoying and cheery without any personality. But yet throughout this movie contradicts the “new look” by giving a personality that is cheery, overly optimistic and nothing but smiles. There’s not a single thing I remember that Wallis does new to improve this character other than giving Annie a literacy complex. She’s not feisty like Aileen Quinn nor clever like Alicia Morton. There are times when they try to show this Annie is not dumb as you think but its played up for the cute factor more often. I try not to hamper on child acting too much but when your told to look cute and smile a lot, that’s very much what you get here.
She’s under the care of Miss. Hannigan performed by Cameron Diaz in one of the worst roles I’ve seen her perform. I can’t say Hannigan is a moral character seeing she is supposed to have a huge hate for children despite living off the misery of orphans (oh, I’m sorry “foster”) and in return gets hit back. The Carol Burnett take was fun despite being floozy and dark while Kathy Bates went for a more manic approach. Diaz gets the drunk aspect but takes the cruel matters way too far making her portrayal so annoying and unbearable that looking at undigested vegetables in my colon were more fascinating than the countless pop culture references she spews out (“I never told you the time I was almost one of Hootie’s Blowfish”) or when she treats that foster girls like pure trash to the point she uses a spray bottle to get their attention.
Jamie Foxx achieves a new low as the Daddy Warbucks character; now renamed Will Stacks. Stacks is a tycoon that does a cellphone business but is pursuing to be mayor of New York City. Why? There is no clear reason. All we get is this cheap “work hard in life” motive but it doesn’t go anywhere. On top of that, how is it possible for a head in a telecommunications business be able to run for politics? Either way, Annie is brought in to soften his image especially seeing he rescued her from a near car accident that goes viral on the Internet (perhaps, too quick as the universe of this movie says that what Stacks does goes viral globally at the drop of the hat.) To add on, Foxx’s performance feels tiring and stiff. He barley cracks a smile and at times rarely shows an emotion. At least the previous Warbucks had an excuse for their grump complexion but had a change of heart. Here, Foxx doesn’t show this form of change and left yawning along with him as he goes out to a Twilight-style movie and try to bond with Annie. The only times he shows signs of life is during the songs but even they feel stiff due to the song style and lame lyric changes.
Bobby Cannavale replaces Hannigan’s scheming brother in the form of a slimy political adviser (“I got them elected. Schwarzenegger, Kim Jong Il, that Blood Diamond guy”) who seems his only motive is to get Stacks elected and get paid for his work. There’s no other big motive than just get this guy mayor and get his name out. To describe the annoyance I developed with this character, picture someone from Jersey Shore mutated with a Republican and Cameron Diaz’s performance in this movie. The result is the migraine I got for the rest of the movie as he tries to bug in on Stacks to “up the polls” and act devious for no other reason. I get it! He wants to see Stacks mayor but what does that accomplish for this guy. Even when he tries to remove Annie from Stacks (even though it was his idea to adopt him) near the climax with fake parents, I kept asking just what is he accomplishing and what purpose does he serve. Even if you added a mustache, a top hat along with a back cape, he wouldn’t fit the standard cliche of a 1920s silent movie villain because there is no strong motive to support his actions. At least Rooster in the previous incarnations had a purpose even if he was a last minute conflict.
Other than forgettable and tiring performances, the songs are just standard and sound the same. When I mean “sound the same,” they attribute with the same style of pop tempo and constant auto tune. There’s never a moment when I stopped and thought, “wow! they are singing!” like in Les Miserables or Into the Woods. Every note that is belted or every word that is sung is enhanced with electronic voice and it goes so tiring that it becomes a drinking game. Even the new lyrics that are added to “Hard Knock Life” and “Little Girls” feel lazily written with no clever spin or twist. “Little Girls” being the worse of the batch as Diaz’s Hannigan whines about being famous and not surrounded like little girls saying she is locked away like a princess which contradicts her character seeing she drove herself to this point of living and no one else. Choreography is beyond stiff without any inspiring use of set as musical numbers are shot from a far distance with tons of empty space as the camera moves around trying to do something interesting. As bad as “Little Girls” is, it had an interesting idea by having Hannigan hallucinate her furniture and clothing into little children which at least did something but that’s the only thing I can remember that I thought was close to clever.
In fact, a lot of this new “Annie” didn’t leave much of an impression on me. I barely remember the other foster kid’s names or what they did in the movie. Even by the big climax with her parents found at about 90 minutes in, I still felt things were dragging on to a dead creak. There’s already so much you have done, what else is there? Wrap up and get to the “super mega happy ending.” I want to compare it to something like The Wiz but even that journey down the Yellow Brick Road had more flare and effort. This comes off as a heartless and “slap-dash” feeling that feels more half-arsed by the end when red balloons from the celebration finale keep bouncing off the end credits to no end as if they want us to find something to enjoy from it desperately. I want to say they tried, but I sense not much of an effort when you have boring to annoying performances, stiff dancing as well as song “re-scoring” you can find on any “Kids Bops” CD and painful pop culture references that try to modernize but end up dating the movie as opposed to be a timeless affair. And I swear, if anyone tries to convince me other wise that this WAS a good movie with effort and grace, then do me a favor and never speak to me again. Please?
Posted on March 20, 2015, in Rental Corner, Why the Hate? and tagged 1982, 2014, Annie, Bobby Cannavale, Cameron Diaz, Hannigan, Jamie Foxx, Movie Musical, Quvenzhane Wallis, rental corner, Warbucks, Worst. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.