A film remake so abysmally bad, it pains to see a talented collection of actors performing in this cringe fest. It’s not even understandable why it needed to be made, apart from monetary gain, the original 1982 version is a classic and if a new generation should see the musical then they can just watch that, instead of sitting through nearly 2 hours of horrendous tech obsessed plot mixed with songs that never sound great.
This retelling finds Annie Bennett (Quvenzhane Wallis) as a foster kid in Harlem. She has a note leading her to hope her parents may return to a corner restaurant but for now she’s stuck under the care of drunk Miss Hannigan (Cameron Diaz). That is until she literally bumps into mobile phone emperor Will Stacks (Jamie Foxx) who uses this meeting as a chance to raise his profile as candidate for mayor. As Annie steps into a richer more luxurious world, will her parents finally reveal themselves and does Will see her as more than just a political tool?
The songs in this are so badly done that every time a new one starts to kick in, you groan and hope to high heaven that it’s over quickly, which for a musical is clearly not a good sign. Even the popular ones like ‘Tomorrow’ and ‘It’s the Hard-Knock Life’ are poorly executed that there’s no magic or sadness in the former or fun in the latter. To be honest the foster girls are so small in number that Miss Hannigan doesn’t really have her work cut out like the 80’s Hannigan and the minimal amount make the hard-knock life number really weak as there’s no strong chorus of girls to give it more oomph.
Rose Byrne and Cameron Diaz jump into songs without much warning and both struggle to sound right, notes being dull and pitchy. Jamie Foxx of course comes from a RnB background so when he does sing a couple of times, he does possess some soul, but his unbearably cheesy arm extensions and the city is mine/yours song feel like a head palm moment. There’s no wonder in the music and the constant hard percussion beats used as non-diagetic sounds between songs gets really irritating really fast.
The entire mobile tech subplot of Stacks’ character is so clawing at material idealism and trying to set it up as a media obsessed world but it becomes badly executed when phones and social media outlets save the day when Annie is being driven away from the city. It’s actually laughably bad at how much Instagram or twitter pave the golden path of heroism in seeing the titular girl in trouble. Also however much Will Stacks’ pad looks very very cool, chic and impressive, it doesn’t retain the same wow factor the posh clean mansion of the original film, also for liking to live alone why does Will need a spare bedroom in his place, darn tootin’ it’s lucky he saved Annie!
The major problem with this film, aside from all the others, is in it’s overload of skin crawling cuteness, it’s packed with sickly images and the way it’s shot, performed and carried out doesn’t give the film any edge, threat or style. The ’82 film however felt dark and grimy, you felt for Annie as an orphan and the railway bridge spectacle of the original is something that will forever stick in my mind as a brilliant and worrying moment, this film had none of that.
To begrudgingly head over to the positives, Wallis and her singing of ‘Opportunity’ is the stand out performance, here we finally get to see the potential of Annie and the hope that this film has a twinkling beautiful scene before it all crumbles into the final act of the movie. Wallis in general is one of the only good things as she strives to keep her big haired head up against the tide of problems. The movie within the movie is also a fun great thing, if only because it gives us some famous cameos to giggle at.
Cameron Diaz is a terrible Colleen Hannigan, her squints, smirks and attempts at being the nasty inebriated foster carer are awful, her rendition of ‘Little Girls’ is atrocious and throughout you just somehow hope that Carol Burnett would step in and no-one would blink an eye because it would be a welcome change. Jamie Foxx tries his best but his character is forced and predictable that even his smooth nature can’t save the day. Quvenzhane Wallis is a special talent and it’s a huge shame that after ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’ she’s dropped to such a naff film. She has her strong shining spots in being street smart, smiley and quick witted but you never feel for her because she can hold her own, the vulnerable disability they give feels like such a distasteful add on to try and give her something to weaken her. Bobby Cannavale is slimy and slick in equal measure but doesn’t have much to do in terms of challenging him coasting through a kids movie. Rose Byrne is beautiful, glamorous but serves no great character purpose other than to bond with Annie and be fond of Stacks. It’s a consensus of mine that the majority of this cast can and have done so much better, so apart from cashing in their appearance fee I don’t know why they’d do this picture.
There’s no engaging ideas, tension or earworm song/dance numbers here to entice new waves of children or keep fans of the original happy. It’s just bland, pathetic and Bad with a capital B, the sun will never come out for Annie in this film as it’s shoved behind a cloud of media calculation, severe lack of energy and pointless hip-hop styled remakes. Watch the original folks.