Someone should call child services over the way “Annie” has been so mistreated in the new, updated adaptation. This is an example of filmmaking abuse.
This is no beloved story of an orphan with unlimited optimism. The new “Annie” has been stripped of its messages about a better tomorrow, drained of its holiday themes and saddled with a foster child plot line that makes the big adoption sequence less appealing.
These flaws could have been overlooked had the film not been loaded with so many embarrassingly bad performances, starting with Cameron Diaz as Miss Hannigan and ending with Annie herself, Quvenzhané Wallis.
You can bet your bottom dollar that this “Annie” is a failure.
Quvenzhané, who was so good in “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” has mastered the musical theater cute kid look — a tilt of the head and eyes widened like a puppy.
What has made “Annie” such a monster hit is the singing prowess of those who have slipped on that famous red dress. Annie’s voice has to be strong enough to remind the audience that even in the biggest roar of despair and depression, her optimism will be heard. Quvenzhané’s voice is so thin that even the musical accompaniment drowns her out. She’s not much better as a dancer.
Quvenzhané is not alone. Rose Byrne makes for a wonderful assistant to the film’s version of Daddy Warbucks — Jamie Foxx as Will Stacks — but you can almost see her counting as she clomps her way through musical numbers.
Diaz is completely miscast. She can’t get across the bitterness that makes the character so unlikable at the start.
The greed-is-good tone of the movie is the opposite of the stage production. Instead of Annie showing the world that all you need is pure optimism that the sun will come out tomorrow to survive, this Annie becomes intoxicated by wealth.
It was also a major mistake to give Annie some legitimate clues to who her real parents are. It’s one thing for the spunky Annie to believe she will find her real parents. It’s another to have legitimate clues, which takes all of the energy out of the decision by Stacks to adopt the foster child.
Director Will Gluck — who co-wrote the screenplay with Aline Brosh McKenna — stumbles in setting the movie during the summer and eliminating the Christmas elements. He also succumbs to wiping out any trappings of this having been a stage production, including a big car chase in New York. “Annie” works by drawing the viewer into the young girl’s life, and this film version lacks all intimacy.
The only saving grace is Foxx, who handles both the small moments and big musical numbers with ease. It’s too bad he’s surrounded by supporting cast members that dance like they are wearing lead shoes and sing with all the passion of a wet sponge.
Parents who take their children to see the film must cling to the idea that the sun will come out tomorrow. That will mean this fractured and flawed musical experience will be over.