It’s the holiday season, and one of the things that immediately comes to mind when thinking of this time of year is not exactly something pleasant: Car rides. Have you ever had to experience those long, drawn out adventures in your parent’s vehicle? How about with a small, noisy child next to you? If you have, then you know exactly what it was like for me to watch the remake of the classic musical, Annie.
Annie 2014 takes a lot of risks. For one, rather than going with the traditional tried and true red head orphan of the past, we’re instead given hip and adorable Quvenzhané Wallis. Rather than being an orphan, Annie is now a foster kid, living in a much nicer and healthier environment than her 1920’s incarnation. Ms. Hannigan (Cameron Diaz) was once an up and coming singer, who lost her dreams, and now tells drunken (
rants) “fairy tales” to the other foster girls. Oliver Warbucks is now Mr. Stacks (Jamie Foxx), the head of a cell phone company who is also running for mayor, and finding it quite a hard task to boot. And of course, the original score (composed by Charles Strouse) has been updated with a more pop, “dubstep-light” vibe, one that J-Pop creation Hatsune Miku would approve of.
But when taking such risks, one would hope they pay off. Yet in this case, we definitely have a mixed bag on our hands.
For one, the casting of Wallis was a good move. She’s spunky, heartfelt, and has a lot of energy and sass that the role demands. The same can be said for Jamie Foxx as Mr. Stacks, along with Rose Byrne as Grace. Sadly, all of their talents seem to be smushed into a sandwich made from the most spoiled, and shallow, lacking in “Sandy Moments,” cinematic ingredients that there is to offer.
One element to blame is the “new material” written for the film. Maybe it’s the abrupt nature of their first notes, or the complete lack of interest in their visual set up, but many of these songs just come out of no where. In musicals, there always has to be a reason for the characters to sing at that very moment. In many of these segments, that emotional drive never occurs, and if there is a climatic build up to said tunes, most of them are portrayed so poorly, it’s hard to grasp what the point of the scene is.
If you were coming in thinking you’d get to hear the “classic Annie songs,” I’d prepare yourself for that not being the case. Sure, it’s fine to modernize pieces like “Tomorrow“ or “Maybe,” but just having the rest of the tunes played as background songs for montage pieces or just referencing a line or a note from them in another musical number, is just disrespectful to the source material, and makes it all together pointless to use the musical as a basis in the first place.
This movie also suffers from failure in the use of its talent. The most obvious is that of Jamie Foxx, who really could have made a fantastic Warbucks if given the chance to play the character in his original, cold hearted manner. No joke, one of the reasons I had even a shred of interest in this remake was to hear him sing “Something Was Missing,” which is one of my favorite ballads in the show. But instead, the script’s (written by director Will Gluck and Aline Brosh McKenna) Mr. Stacks is a basic, prissy, “Steve Jobs Type” that has no humanity to him whatsoever, making his relationship with Annie feel as shallow as the pictures they take throughout the film. And no, Foxx never gets to sing the song mentioned above.
But nothing can truly be as awful as this movie’s rendition of the antagonists within the Annie universe. The 2014 film takes some of the most menacing villains of children’s film history, and molds them into basic, boring, and confusing individuals. Diaz’s Hannigan is comical, but only in how pathetic her (and the script’s) portrayal of the iconic character is. Her presumed “singing talents” are no where to be heard or seen in any of her musical sequences, which makes me question if Annie is just insulting Ms. Hannigan whenever she mentions her “great voice.” And if you were looking for Rooster and Lily St. Regis in this remake, be prepared for a new (
and disappointing) “twist.”
But what really hurts the film as a whole is the negativity towards the theater community. The script likes to make fun of the stereotypes of Broadway whenever possible, making it seem as if the filmmakers are ashamed to be related to, what is arguably, one of the most iconic shows in the history of musical theater. If you’re going to be working on a musical, Mr. Gluck, you should at least try and be happy about it (
as I’m sure you were about your paycheck.)
Deep down, I hate saying that in 2014, Hollywood can’t deliver a truly interesting rendition of a modern Annie. When you have talent like Jay-Z and Will and Jada Smith involved, there really should be no excuse for this kind of phoned-in, lackluster end product. If anything, when time machines are invented, maybe someone can delete this remake from existence, or at least get Lin Manuel Miranda (In The Heights) involved in it, which would make it viewable in some respect. But until that invention is made, we’ll have to deal with yet another desperate attempt at quick-cash remake, ending up in the five dollar bin at Walmart, where it’ll die a slow, painful, discount death.