Cotton Blankets and Empty Bellies, by Rudie Obias
The recent Sony hack sheds a light on Will Gluck’s Annie, a remake of John Huston’s 1982 film and the 1977 Broadway musical of the same name. It’s hard to separate recent news and the actual film, so I’m not going to pretend that we live in a vacuum and ignore the significance of the Sony hack on the film. After all, it’s readily available online, if you’re a savvy Internet user. While it’s strange that Annie was the target of malicious hackers, the film itself is something to consider, as it feels a bit uneven at its 118-minute running time.
At its core, Annie is a children’s movie; please don’t forget that. It’s by no means made for adults with sophisticated tastes, but overall it’s harmless fun. Much like the 1982 film and musical, Annie follows – you guessed it – Annie (Quvenzhané Wallis) an orphaned 10-year-old girl who searches for her real parents. She becomes the center of attention in New York City when she befriends a billionaire communications mogul Will Stacks, played by Jamie Foxx, who uses their friendship to help him become mayor. Of course, throughout the film, Annie and Will Stacks learn to open up to each other through songs and musical numbers to form a real friendship and eventual father/daughter relationship.
The problem with Annie is not its story or contemporary look and feel, but rather from its overly silly moments that appears in the movie from time to time. It’s just poor screenwriting when something is introduced into a movie that never pays off in any meaningful way. Believe it or not, there’s a subplot or theme in Annie that revolves around Will Stack’s ability to track anyone in the city that is using one of his mobile phones. The film goes out of its way to take a look at his empire of spying and privacy invasion software, but it never comes full circle or pays off.
Annie wants to use the technology to find her real parents, but it just seems as if its simply a MacGuffin, or a poor way to get adults engaged with the film. It feels that it was at one time a bigger part of Annie’s screenplay, but screenwriters Gluck and Aline Brosh McKenna forgot to expand or remove the subplot in future drafts. It’s almost representative of Annie as a whole, it’s not as sharp or tight as it should be and could’ve used some more polishes.
Even the performances could’ve used some sharpening. While Quvenzhané Wallis is adorable and has a magnificent screen presence, she’s not much of a singer or dancer. There are sequences, like the earworm “It’s the Hard Knock Life,” where it seems like everyone is singing and dancing around Miss Wallis in an attempt to cover up the flaws in her performance. The same could be said about Cameron Diaz, Rose Byrne, and Bobby Cannavale (yes, even he sings and dances in the movie). While it seems that the musical numbers are supposed to pop, they actually fall flat in a lackluster effort.
Jamie Foxx, on the other hand, brings scenes to life with a charm and wit that cannot be matched by anyone in Annie. Wallis and Foxx have a real chemistry that’s wonderful to watch, as it unfolds. There’s a certain level of earnest delight and sincerity to their relationship and performances that might be lost on the cynical moviegoer.
Although a modern take on Annie is justifiable, it also automatically dates it. Director Will Gluck seems like he goes out of the way to make Annie as high tech and contemporary as possible that he could’ve very well forgotten what makes Little Orphan Annie work, it’s classic and timeless appeal. While “The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow” for Sony Entertainment, I just don’t think audiences will remember this version of Annie the next day after watching it.