Starring: Quvenzhané Wallis, Jamie Foxx, Rose Byrne
Director: Will Gluck
Running Time: 118 mins
Annie is an American film about a young girl living in a foster home in the care of a mean woman, whose life turns around when she bumps into a wealthy businessman running for mayor, who decides to take her in, in the hope that it will boost his performance in the polls.
Smiley, cheesy and plastic, Annie is by no means the greatest cinematic work of a generation. However, it’s a completely harmless film, and with its cheery atmosphere, it can be a pleasant and enjoyable watch for a good amount of time. Yes, the musical numbers are poor, some of the performances are laughable, and the product placement is horrifying, but on the flipside, the film has a decent sense of humour, and is a generally well-made family extravaganza.
But before I get into all that, I think the most important thing to take into account is that I’ve never seen the original Annie. Whether that be the stage play, the 1982 film or the 1999 TV movie, this is the first time I’ve watched the story unfold. As a result, I don’t have the nostalgia that many who dislike this film do, and there was nothing about that felt like it was ripping up good work done in previous adaptations.
Now that’s out of the way, I want to start on the positive side of things, particularly with the film’s atmosphere. It’s a family movie musical, just as chipper as any Disney production, so I didn’t expect anything more than a simple, fluffy and light-hearted two hours.
Would I like more interesting character development? Of course. Would the film be better with a slightly more human and less materialistic story? Definitely. However, the fact remains that Annie does its job at being an enjoyable and cheery way to spend two hours of your time. With far more jokes that land than I could have ever expected, it’s got a good sense of humour to make the watch more entertaining, and that’s frankly good enough for me.
What’s more is that this is a properly well-made film. It’s bright and nice to look at from start to finish, the dance choreography is entertaining, and director Will Gluck tells a convincing story throughout. It’s not the most memorable watch, but sometimes you’ve got to appreciate that the filmmakers did a good, competent job here, something that can go wrong far easier than you’d think.
Despite all that, I still have some major issues with Annie. Most of all, the musical numbers are poor. Whilst the modern setting does work well with the story, the modern style of the songs doesn’t. The main classics are enjoyable enough to hear (even I know them not having seen the original), but the rest of the music is generally dull and manufactured pop, failing to inject the same joyful vibe that the rest of the film does manage well.
And on that same front, there’s something to be said about the product placement and oddly materialistic focus of the film. Whilst it does remain a simply harmless watch, I did at times feel a little uneasy watching Annie gawk at the wealth of technology, connections, money and stuff that her new guardian has, with little genuine heart to her excitement. What’s more is that the film really pushes the Windows Home tech too far. Although not explicitly saying it’s Windows, playing around with the features of a smart home is way overdone, and felt completely out of place in the story.
Finally, some of the performances here are pretty poor. Whilst the leading actors, Quvenzhané Wallis, Jamie Foxx and Rose Byrne are perfectly entertaining, their co-stars, namely Cameron Diaz and Bobby Cannavale, are almost laughable at times. Whilst Diaz has a few brief shining moments, her performance is generally way over-the-top (even for a musical), whilst Cannavale is a consistently irritating presence, even beyond that of his character’s pushy and immoral personality.
Overall, however, I don’t think Annie deserves the extreme hate it got from so many critics and audiences. My lack of prior knowledge of the story may play into me thinking it’s a harmless piece of fun, but I was surprised by how often I found myself smiling or chuckling at this perfectly simple and fluffy bit of family entertainment. It’s got quite a few problems, and it’s not the most memorable film you’ll ever see, but in the end, I didn’t feel like it was two hours badly spent, which is why I’m giving Annie a 7.0.