Though Will Gluck’s new musical dramedy “Annie” (2014) has its positive aspects, the film simply did not have me feeling the urge to see it again.
This adaptation of the charming redheaded girl includes a 21st century modern twist with contemporary music. The film stars Jamie Fox, Cameron Diaz, Quvenhane Wallis, Rose Byrne, and Bobby Cannavale. The producers kept the integrity of the film by keeping all of the key parts of the original story — an orphan gets taken in by a rich man in order to build up his public image and ends up building a special father-daughter bond with her. However, the story also endured several changes throughout the making of this film.
In order to make the film more modernized from the 1982 version, Annie resides in a foster home rather than an orphanage. Also, Mr. Stacks heads a cell phone business and looks to run for office, whereas Mr. Warbucks just tries to improve his public image as a businessman. Thirdly, instead of going to Radio City Music Hall, Mr. Stacks takes Annie and her friends to a movie premier. All of the changes tie together fairly well, keeping the story alive even in these modern times.
The movie grants us the chance to hear Jamie Fox and Quvenhane Wallis sing, and their beautiful voices really contributed to the film. The soundtrack includes a number of new songs that never appeared in the Broadway musical — of which the film claims to have been based off of. These include: “The City’s Yours”, “Who am I?”, and “Opportunity.” The changes made to the song “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile,” made it even more upbeat and catchy. The song “Opportunity,” takes place in one of the best moments of the film where your eyes may tear up right along with the rest of the audience. Other highlights of the film involve the beautiful bright colors and costume design which incorporated a modern style with some inspiration of the original costuming.
When a film markets itself with the same name and general story line as a previous film, it must commit to that story. And whether the film makers like it or not, people are going to compare it to the previous version. While I know that changes needed to be made in order to modernize this charming tale, the standards for a musical do not change. The score, acting, singing, dancing, script and plot are all expected to be done exceptionally well. I personally didn’t see this film meeting these standards.
Unfortunately, some of the songs, such as “Little Girls” and “I Think I’m Gonna Like it Here” endured drastic changes, including to the lyrics. I felt some of these songs growing on me, but they bear little comparison to the original versions. I also feel as if some of the voices do not measure up to the standard I had previously expected. In the most recent “Les Miserables,” Hugh Jackman, Amanda Seyfried, Anne Hathaway, and Russel Crow all have exceptional voices and vocal technique. Wallis has a pretty voice, but does not properly enunciate her words — a learned technique in singing. Regarding the acting, I have to say that Cameron Diaz does not play Ms. Hannigan as well as expected. Her acting appears over the top and her voice seems best suited for a different style of music.
Two further aspects I found disheartening occurred in the beginning of the film when a red-headed girl with the name Annie presents a book report. She wears a costume similar to the original but once she finishes, Wallis presents hers while wearing 21st century everyday clothing. The class becomes very excited and interested in her unorthodox presentation, unlike the reaction elicited by the “other” Annie. This somewhat unsettling display creates an almost “my horse is bigger than your horse”-like atmosphere. Thankfully, that impression didn’t seem to last further into the movie, but nonetheless I found it less than amusing.
The other aspect that upset me revolved around the fact that the filmmakers didn’t appear fully committed to it being a musical. When one character asks another character “Are you singing to me?” the filmmakers obviously don’t create a believable new world in which the audience’s suspension of disbelief can be fulfilled. I can appreciate the fact that they intended on using this as comedic relief, but I found it unnecessary and distracting from the world I had just been brought into. Musicals have never been meant to be realistic. Their ability to take you out of boring everyday life and put you inside a world filled with love, music, and laughter is the whole point and beauty behind them. Overall, while fairly enjoyable to watch and listen to, I don’t see “Annie” (2014) going down in history as one of the greats.