Friday, December 19, 2014


Directed by: Will Gluck
Cast: Jamie Foxx, Quvenzhane Wallis, Bobby Canavale, Rose Byrne, Cameron Diaz, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, cameos by Mila Kunis, Ashton Kutcher, Rihanna

                    Review by James Colt Harrison

For most of our lives we have been reading about Little Orphan Annie in comic strips, beginning in 1924 from author Harold Gray. It has been great fodder for theatrical productions and films. Not only is the latest Annie from Columbia Pictures with stars Jamie Foxx and little Quvenzhane Wallis a stunning toe-tapping musical version, but there have been several other previous  films made that were not as good. Plus, there was the original 1977 hit Broadway musical from which much of the music comes in the latest version.

The version most people remember is the 1982 Columbia film that starred Albert Finney and Carol Burnett. Aileen Quinn starred as Annie. That film was directed by the formidable Oscar® winner John Huston. As we can see, Annie has been entertaining audiences for decades.

Because the original story and setting (1930s) was getting a little long in the tooth, the producers felt the show needed a bit of a re-polishing and updating to appeal to today’s audience’s taste in music and humor. They brought in British actress Emma Thompson to update the script and add some much-needed humor. She collaborated on the screenplay with director Gluck and Aline Brosh McKenna, turning out a script that relied on bringing out the humorous side of the characters. Jamie Foxx, now called Will Stacks instead of the time-worn “Daddy Warbucks” uses dead-pan humor to his advantage. He’s still rich, but he’s a strong billionaire from the 21st Century now. Foxx is a likeable person in his own right, but he has to play a somewhat disagreeable man who frequently makes us laugh because of his seriousness.

The story, of course, remains the classic one where Annie is sort of “rescued” from the hands of mean and acidic Miss Hannigan, who runs a home for foster children. Cameron Diaz plays Miss Hannigan aggressively over the top and exaggerates her every gesture and facial tick. Overdoing it too much, she should win the Ham Actress Award of the Year.

Stacks saves Annie’s life by saving her from getting run over by a truck. They bond and Annie becomes the catalyst for Stacks’ running for New York Mayor. Stack’s slimy campaign manager, played humorously by handsome Bobby Cannavale, encourages him to use Annie to boost his polls numbers. Naturally, this complicates their relationship.

The music is tuneful and happy and has been updated with altered lyrics to today’s rhythms. Kids today can relate to it easily. It’s toe-tapping even for the adults, who will enjoy hearing favorites “Tomorrow,” “Little Girls,” and this reviewer’s favorite, “It’s A Hard Knock Life” featuring a new down beat and cadence. The original music is by Martin Charnin & Charles Strouse with newer songs written by Greg Kurstin, Sia, and Will Glick.

A funny, happy musical is perfect for the holiday season. This new film version of the perennial favorite Annie is a glittering gift under the tree. There are some fun, but quick, cameo appearances by Ashton Kutcher, singer Rihanna, and actress Mila Kunis. Go see it and sing along with all the heart-warming tunes and dance down the theater aisles.

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Anonymous said...

It's not a perfect movie, but for as long as it is up on the screen, it's an okay watch. Can't say I expected much else. Good review.

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