COURTESY SCREENRELISH.COM The 21st century remake of the classic musical "Annie" expands on the diversity of its cast, but its script fell short of novelty.
COURTESY SCREENRELISH.COM
The 21st century remake of the classic musical “Annie” may expand on the diversity of its cast, but its script falls short of anything spectacular.

★★★☆☆

The famous red-haired orphan Annie we have known and loved is no more in Sony Pictures’ modern spin on the classic film. This new version, in theaters tonight, is a star-studded, contemporary take on the 1982 original.

The remake features Jamie Foxx as William Stacks, also known as Daddy Warbucks, who owns a cell phone company and is simultaneously running for mayor of New York City. The conflict arises when he adopts Annie as an advantageous political stunt rather than for gaining a true family member. Although the film succeeds in casting more diverse members to play its idiosyncratic characters, its hackneyed plot line leaves little to excite the audience. The movie is fun for the whole family and throws in a good mix of jokes to be enjoyed by all ages, but it cannot compete with the original curly red hair and upbeat show tunes that made its predecessor famous.

Unimpressive characters confined by their script made this film a weak act to follow the classic. Annie is played by Quvenzhané Wallis, who rose to fame in the critically acclaimed “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” in which she became the youngest person to ever receive a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actress. It seems that this happy-go-lucky movie allowed little flexibility to push the boundaries of Wallis’ acting skills, but she still left as much of an impression as she was capable of making.

Most striking is the fact that she is simply different than the previous Annie we have come to know and love, with a vibrant personality that does not include overly enthusiastic singing. Rather, Wallis creates a sassy, unique Annie that is certainly fit for the 21st century.

Rose Byrne plays Grace Farrell, the assistant to William Stacks and maternal figure to Annie, adding an enjoyable yet seen-before touch that Byrne has already played in films like “Insidious.”

If one character does stand out among the rest, it would be Cameron Diaz as Miss Hannigan. She ends up stealing the show — at first playing the part of a typical drunk who hates caring for the foster children, but then later weaving in a more profound emotional side when Annie goes in search of her parents. Her rendition of “Little Girls” was laughable and changed from the original, and it  gave Miss Hannigan a particular spunk comparable to her persona in the classic film while adding a warm-hearted twist.

Classic Annie show tunes are essential to the musical’s positivity and display of talent, and the music was probably the biggest disappointment of this film. It was evident that all of the young actresses were lip-syncing, and most of the songs seemed auto-tuned or digitally altered in some way. Some songs are enjoyable, like the track “Maybe” with its “Pitch Perfect”-esque leg tapping and hand clapping beat as well as Cameron Diaz’s “Easy Street.” “Tomorrow” is strong simply because of its uplifting lyrics that embody the mood of the movie as a whole. However, other classics such as “It’s a Hard Knock Life” try too hard to capture the cute nature of the young girls that was so memorable in the original, but they essentially fail to do so and are almost consequently annoying to listen to. Overall, the music left a weak impression and could not compare to the sing-along tunes of the first version.

The 2014 movie rendition of the classic musical and 1982 film Annie left a weak impression, simply because its modern twists could not compare to the characteristic red dress and red-haired girl we have come to love. Cell phones, social media and other Information Age aspects are utilized to find Annie’s parents, but it seems obvious that these elements were thrown in simply to appeal to younger generations. One opening scene at first harkens back to the 1930s-set Annie from the original, featuring a girl with curly red hair in a red dress tap dancing for a class presentation, but this moment does not last for long. The diverse cast may appeal to modern sentiment, but it never rises above its average script. While this is a fun family movie for the holiday season, older crowds familiar with the previous version will be disappointed, making it clear that when it comes to musicals like Annie, perhaps we should just stick to the classics.

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