The original Annie came out in 1982 and starred Albert Finney as Daddy Warbucks and comic legend Carol Burnett as Mrs. Hannigan, this remake has made a couple of odd choices in their replacements where Jamie Foxx is in the Warbucks role, as Will Stacks and Cameron Diaz is in the Burnett role. Granted, Finney was also an odd choice back in the original film but he did, at least, look like the comic book character. To be fair, the real star of this re imagining of an old favorite, is the young actress playing the lead role, Quvenzhané Wallis, who is stepping into the tap shoes of Aileen Quinn. This 11 year old possessor of a huge amount of talent, fills the shoes of the original Annie with relative ease and it is her performance which impresses the most.
It should be pointed out that some folks also felt over 32 years ago that Finney was an odd choice for Daddy Warbucks. In the 2014 version, there is a certain logic to casting the man who brought music legend Ray Charles to life on film. Studio bosses were obviously pleased that Foxx can sing so in a way there is a thread one can follow in the casting process. However, Cameron Diaz, feels like a bit of a stretch. That said, Diaz as Mrs. Hannigan does surprisingly well. Her depiction of the alcoholic, depressed and bitter has-been singer, “I was almost a blowfish” is touching and later in the film when she has a change of heart, it does not feel out of place. Kudos to this actress for actually performing the number Little Girls in such a manner as to win over the audience completely as well as this reviewer.
While the Charlie’s Angels star is no Carol Burnett, she does not need to be as this film’s depiction of the character is significantly different from the 1982 film’s version of Mrs. Hannigan. Annie in 2014 has gone for a different type of story, and while Jamie Foxx and Cameron Diaz may feel like odd choices for this remake, it is apparent from the start of the film that this updating of an old favorite is all about Quvenzhané Wallis. This young lady creates an Annie who is not celebrating her luck, this kid makes her fortune by seriously pursuing it. Her take on the “orphan” is that one has to be proactive.
In this version, Daddy Warbucks has been changed to Will Stacks and he is a cell phone magnet. In the modern take, he suffers from OCD and is paranoid about coming into contact with people and germs. Along with Wallis, Diaz and Foxx, Bobby Cannavale (The Bone Collector, Chef), Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (The Mummy Returns, Thor: The Dark World), David Zayas (The Expendables, Oz) and Stephanie Kurtzuba (Away We Go, The Wolf of Wall Street)all come together to help fill out the adult portion of the show. One actress, who was not lumped in with everyone else, who has been very busy over the last couple of years and feels like she has been in everything (and it is not Emily Blunt, believe it or not) is also a vital member of Annie, and that is Rose Byrne. It does feel like there is nothing that this beautiful and talented lady cannot do.
The one standout performance, apart from Quvenzhané Wallis came from Stephanie Kurtzuba who felt like she could have probably stepped into Carol Burnett’s shoes in this film. Kurtzuba played the child care services worker who deals with Annie and later comes to inspect Stacks’ penthouse to make sure the billionaire can adequately house the girl. There is something about an attractive woman who can adroitly do a comic turn, it makes the gag that little bit funnier and endearing. This comic actress will most assuredly be in a lot more films and if she is not, someone is not paying attention to her superb acting skills.
Getting back to Australian actress Byrne, she was incredibly good in the Seth Rogen/Zac Efron comedy Neighbors and she proves here that as Grace, Stacks’ assistant, she can do subtle comedy just as well as the more overt type. This film is not a replacement for the much loved 1982 film, but it does stand on its own. Sadly, this Annie lacks a little because the odd choices of Jamie Foxx, who apparently cannot cry, and Cameron Diaz, who is not Carol Burnett, do not over impress in their respective roles, but overall, it is entertaining and kids will enjoy it. Annie opens December 19 nationwide. Prepare to like Annie but not love it.
By Michael Smith
AMC Town Square Theatre 18