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Annie

Year: 2014
Production Co: Marcy Media
Studio: Sony
Director: Will Gluck
Writer: Will Gluck/Aline Brosh McKenna
Cast: Quvenzhané Wallis, Jamie Foxx, Rose Byrne, Cameron Diaz, Bobby Cannavale

I hate musicals, so initially I couldn't figure out what appealed to me about watching this film. The unconscious reason was undoubtedly because I really liked the 1980 original (long before my movie-going tastes were formed).

But second was that I was hoping for a certain tone. I've always liked the rich musicality in Hard Knock Life (the orphans' song describing their daily grind), and when I listened to the updated version online sung by Quvenzhané Wallis (Annie) and her costars, I liked it even more, the bombastic blasts from the horn section forming a piece of music that's both full and spritely.

I hoped for the same thing from the movie, a sense of taking something that worked well and filling it with heavier, richer notes – especially as the heroine and the update of Daddy Warbucks, Will Stack (Jamie Foxx) were black, and if I know anything about Hollywood, it doesn't waste an opportunity to co-opt the culture of music and fast-talking quips that come to represent African Americans on screen.

There is indeed a new sense of density to Annie, but like Independence Day: Resurgence, the recent Ghostbusters remake and plenty of others, it doesn't have any of the charm of John Huston's original with Albert Finney and Carol Burnett. Plus, I couldn't escape my tastes – the songs just seem stupid when they pop up and I went from rolling my eyes to fast forwarding through them.

The bare bones of the story's essentially the same. With three other girls from about six to about 14, Annie lives in the abusive foster care of Ms Hannigan (Cameron Diaz) and finds magic and wonder in everything despite the life she leads.

Meanwhile, cellphone magnate Stacks is campaigning for a mayoral run with his officious minders (Rose Byrne and Bobby Cannavale, both of them gurning dreadfully for the camera in the film that marked the start of their off-screen relationship).

When Annie is running down the street trying to rescue the stray dog that will become her iconic pooch Sandy, Stacks rescues her from being run down by a bus, and when videos of the event go viral, it starts to turn the polls around in his favour. His handlers hit upon the idea of making him appear a man of the people by taking Annie in for long enough to win the election, but he starts to really love her, etc etc... if you were interested enough to see this film it's because you liked either the original film or the stageplay and know the story, although not many people were – it didn't light the box office on fire by any means.

The adult actors aren't called upon to do anything much except for Diaz, who has much more fun that the movie frankly deserves, and Wallis – while cute – is an awful actress, inexpressive and stiff in a way that makes you realise that all the magic of her first role (in Beasts of the Southern Wild) was because of the activity and performances going on around her.

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