Review: Annie


Rose Byrne and Quvenzhané Wallis take to a tabletop in Annie

Let me preface this review by acknowledging my lifelong attachment to the 1982 movie Annie. That movie's soundtrack was one of the few original cassettes my sister and I as small kids owned that wasn't a copy my dad recorded off records checked out from the library (yes, I am totally dating myself here).  I had all the songs memorized as a kid, and still remember most of the lyrics today to "Dumb Dog," "You're Never Fully Dressed (Without a Smile)," "Maybe," "Tomorrow"... you get the idea. I came in skeptical of the remake/new take. If my musical-loving friend hadn't asked me to get her into the preview screening, I might have skipped the whole thing. And that would have been a shame.

This 2014 version caused much hullabaloo before production even began as charmer Quvenzhané Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild) was cast in the title role. Racists took to social media to whine about a black actress playing Annie, others applauded the forward-thinking of the casting, and I just wondered if she could sing. After seeing the film I will tell you, dear reader, she can sing -- with a little help from autotune.

New Annie is a kid stuck in the foster system, housed by cranky Ms. Hannigan (Cameron Diaz, another actress assisted by autotune) until would-be-mayor/cell phone millionaire Will Stacks (Jamie Foxx, Ray, no added audio gadgetry necessary) takes her in as a campaign ploy. Aussie actress Rose Byrne (Bridesmaids) plays Grace, a British assistant/advisor to Stacks, and gets to sing the revamped "I Think I'm Gonna Like It Here" with Annie.  This song/dance number (see still above) has Byrne rapping.  Yes.

The music of Annie is overproduced (don't expect anyone singing live in this film), but includes some thoughtful touches here and there. As the girls sing "Maybe," a form of the clapping game provides percussion. Street sounds orchestrate the overture as Annie runs through New York City boroughs.

About half the songs in the movie were written just for this film; the Ms. Hannigan/Annie/Stacks trio "Who Am I?" is a particular standout. These new songs and adaptations of familiar tunes bring new momentum to this classic musical, making this film like a completely new creation.

Annie doesn't take itself seriously, and it doesn't expect you to either. The film is unabashedly silly, reveling in its ridiculousness, perfectly fine with throwing in a closing number so cheesy that it makes you grin despite yourself. Directed by Will Gluck (Easy A), with a spirited performance by Wallis in the title role, Annie just might win you over.