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Annie (2014) - Review

Annie

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 2 out of 5

WILL Gluck may have directed some pretty smart comedies (Easy A, Friends With Benefits) in his short career but he struggles to bring anything magical to his remake of Annie.

A contemporary update of the Depression-era set musical (which has already been turned into two films), this latest version is high on sickly-sweet schmaltz and tacky product placement, yet low on heart or memorable set pieces.

Even attempts to update the songs fall surprisingly flat, with few (if any) choreographed dance routines looking inspired.

As always, the plot follows orphan Annie (Quvenzhan√© Wallis) as she is temporarily ‘adopted’ by a millionaire (on this occasion, Jamie Foxx’s Will Stacks) and melts the heart of her new benefactor, thereby enabling her to escape the evil clutches of her tyrannical children’s home ‘mom’ Miss Hannigan (Cameron Diaz).

But where the original Broadway production played heavily against the Depression, this one places modern concerns (consumerism, power, etc) as the backdrop for proceedings to unfold. Hence, Stacks’ rich man is a prospective New York Mayor who also has his hands full attempting to update mobile phone technology. He doesn’t like people and hates touching them.

Enter confident Annie, who after bumping into him on a New York street, literally sets about changing his world view, while boosting his popularity in the ratings.

Watching from the sidelines, meanwhile, are Annie’s orphan friends, as well as Stacks’ unscrupulous right-hand man (Bobby Cannavale) and his eager-to-please assistant (Rose Byrne), all of whom have a part to play in whether Annie will remain with Stacks beyond his potential election.

Gluck’s film may update things to a contemporary setting but he never really takes any risks with the material. It’s obvious what’s going to happen. But perhaps worse, we don’t really care.

None of the characters in this remake feel real, let alone likeable – more movie cliches who have a part to play in getting the story towards its end. Hence, Cannavale’s pantomime villain is just nasty for the sake of it, Wallis is impossibly sweet and Diaz is horrendously OTT and not in the least bit imposing as Miss Hannigan.

Put that together with the over-bearing product placement and the over-emphasis on social media and you do have an Annie that reflects the times in which we live, but one that is also devoid of any emotional investment or inspiration. The inherent sweetness feels as manufactured as the characters.

Perhaps most disappointing, however, is a derisory nod given by Foxx to one of his former movies (Miami Vice), or the fact that none of the re-jigged songs stand-out. A mundane musical can sometimes be rescued by the quality of its songs and set pieces but the ones here merely serve to underline the feeling that this is another remakke that should never have been given a day in the sun.

Certificate: PG
Running time: 118mins
UK Release Date: December 20, 2014