Copyright © 2014 by Columbia Pictures
As a baby, Annie Bennett (Quvenzhané Wallis) is left under the foster care of Colleen Hannigan (Cameron Diaz). She frequents a restaurant hoping to be reunited with her real parents one day. When a Social Services officer pays Hannigan a visit, he accidentally drops a document containing details of all the children. Bennett seizes the chance of obtaining information about her parents’ whereabouts. The search is futile but she is rescued by William Stacks (Jamie Foxx) from getting hurt on the road. A high-powered entrepreneur of ‘Stacks Mobile’ and a challenger in the next mayoral election, with the advice from his political aide, Guy (Bobby Cannavale), decides on being Bennett’s temporary guardian in an attempt of outpacing his competitor. As they spend more time together, his fondness for the child grows and is considering for her to be in his life permanently.
The old versus the new, which one fared better? That is the age-old question, is it not? As I have never seen the Albert Finney and Carol Burnett version, I am happy to report that Wallis and Foxx’s interpretation of ‘Annie’ redux is thoroughly entertaining through and through. Forget what others might say (source material could be a little slight and lacks pizzazz for another remake; a 1999 made-for-television production directed by Rob Marshall whose own competing ‘Into the Woods’ is a stronger contender for musical of the year had heaps of praises from the Primetime Emmys), the songs still hold up, modernised by Sia and Greg Kurstin.
From what I gather, there are not many changes in Will Gluck’s input on the orphan/foster child who meets her billionaire tycoon other than updating its setting for a generation dependently fixated on the latest gadgetry (a digital detox is handy every once in a while). It really does come down to the music and for this alone, the price of admission is worth every dollar. 2014 is quite a year for musically inclined movies, from smaller hits such as ‘Begin Again’ and ‘Jersey Boys’ to the current pair of Golden Globe nominated offerings. Though a diverse bunch, the music is unforgettable.
Fresh from her global sensation, ‘Chandelier’, Grammy nominee Sia collaborated with Kurstin for three original numbers that integrate naturally with classics like ‘Tomorrow’, ‘It’s the Hard Knock Life’, ‘Maybe’ and ‘Easy Street’. ‘Opportunity’ (a nominee for ‘Best Original Song’ in the Globes) is the show’s standout piece performed commendably by Wallis and ‘Who Am I’, a soul-searching ballad reflecting the quandaries of losing one’s identity. Although not prominent and as a means for the film within a film segment, ‘Moonquake Lake’ is a bouncy and cheeky send-up to the ‘Twilight’ franchise.
Putting her game face on, Wallis proves to the world that her Oscar nomination for ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’ (youngest nominee for the ‘Best Actress’ category) is no fluke and totally owns the role as our single-minded and streetwise heroine. Clearly, she is having loads of fun; her rapport with her other foster sisters, Foxx and Rose Byrne irons out numerous but negligible kinks addressed in the movie which insufficiently justifies the need in the first place (come on, you would have us believe our gal with the ‘fro cannot read?). For crying out loud, she does go to school as pointed out early on.
Looked like an afterthought but if you thought Diaz could inherit the chops from Burnett or Kathy Bates, think again. She is a fine actress, mind you having taken on challenging choices with aplomb from nominated works including ‘Being John Malkovich’, ‘Vanilla Sky’ and ‘Gangs of New York’. Hamming it up and trying to be mean simply does not cut it. As cliché as it may sound, she is better off cheerfully funny than maniacally laughable. Her ‘Little Girls’ rendition is far from perfect but passable when majority of your colleagues (with the exception of Foxx) share similar limitations. A pleasant trip down memory lane (or the busy streets of New York) and if Stacks manor is your home, I think you are going to like it here as well.
Rated PG for some mild language and rude humor