Overview: After being saved by the wealthiest man in the city and attempting to improve Will Stacks’s public image, Annie inadvertently changes the life of Mr. Stacks and her own. Columbia Pictures; 2014; Rated PG; 118 minutes.
Annie, Mr. Stacks, and Ms. Hannigan: As the two central players, the dynamic between Annie (Quvenzhané Wallis) and Mr. Stacks (Jamie Foxx) is solid. Foxx and Wallis’ dyanamic is believable, their interactions natural, and both display a development from distrust to contained adoration in their own respective manner. I was confident Wallis would be able to fulfill the role of Annie after seeing her performance in Beasts of Southern Wild, and I am not disappointed. As the Annie for a new generation, Wallis is resilient and bright-eyed, ever hopeful despite her current state. One facet of Annie that appears to be lost is her optimism and pluck. I attribute this oversight to the writers who did not present the opportunity for Wallis to show the unwavering assuredness that is commonly associated with Annie. In Foxx, the casting director found our new Daddy Warbucks. As Mr. Stacks, he exhibits an introvertedness and curmudgeonly dislike for people. The disconnect he feels with people outside of his personal circle is apparent. There were a few slapstick moments that made me think, “Really, Jamie?” Done correctly, these scenes could have been genuine instead of corny and unfunny. Both Wallis and Foxx have vocal talents that came with ease; there was no audible strain that other actors-turned-musicians possess. In matters of appearance, Cameron Diaz suited the role of Ms. Hannigan, but aesthetically suited is about the extent of her earned praise. Diaz’s drunken meanderings about the apartment and her taunts to her foster girls are awfully fake in every respect. I will give her credit for trying, albeit trying a little too hard. A truly drunken Diaz may have improved this performance ten-fold.
Music, New and Old: Mainly, I wanted to watch Annie for the music. If Jay-Z sampled the beat and melody from the original motion picture for his track, the movie has some credible merit in music. I hate pinning all of the movie’s shortcomings on Diaz, but “Little Girls” was an ultimate failure; her lack of musical talent in the weak rendition is on the edge of unbearable. Thankfully, the updated version of “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile” pays tribute to the original while appropriately updating the bassline and vocal inflections to reflect current tastes. I was and remain a fan of the song. When Wallis steps up to the mic, the expectation is that Annie will sing the full song of “Tomorrow,” but she does not. I was not bothered, because the song she sings (“Opportunity”) is poetic and mirrors Mr. Stacks’ realization of the opportunity at hand.
Final Thoughts: Although it doesn’t surpass the original, Annie is worthy of sharing with the current generation as a reminder of resilience and a reflection of America’s modern family.