Starring Quvenzhané Wallis, Jamie Foxx, Cameron Diaz, Rose Bryne, Bobby Cannavale and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje. Written by Aline Brosh McKenna and Will Gluck. 118 minutes long. Directed by Will Gluck.
Foster Kid, Annie. Cute, adorable, loveable, charming, sweet, wonderful, brilliant, cold, cunning, sinister, manipulative and only able to show affection to a dog she herself adopts. Talk about a psychotic timebomb just waiting to explode.
Abandoned at the age of four outside a restaurant, 10-year old Annie lives her life by her rules, doing things her way, playing the game to get by, when she's not manipulating her teacher, or passive-aggressively stealing money from the kindly convenience store owner, she's sweetly convincing a bureaucrat into giving her sensitive personal information, guilting a New Yorker into 'loaning' her her Boris bike, or scamming an old waiter out of food, or turning her foster mum into a self-loathing, alcoholic who craves love and offers meaningless sex to any man she meets. This 21st Century Annie is nothing less than a 10-year old con artist, and I think looking back over the film, quite possibly a killer too. Consider the facts, her parents are never heard of again, one night they give her up for adoption and are never heard of again, they utterly vanish, in the 21st Century, that's impossible. Her file has no other information, quite a feat in the 2000s. so I'm thinking she killed them and gave herself up for adoption, knowning she could manipulate her way to a better life, and boy does she succeed! This girl scams her way into the life of trillionaire Stacks, a sad, lonely, vunerable man who just wants to be loved and to have a family of his own. Luckily Annie is on hand to push all the right buttons and to cunningly manipulate everyone into giving her exactly what she's always wanted, wealth, power and fame. I'm guessing in that film world, that 30 minutes after Stacks signs her adoption papers he's 'accidentally' dead and she's the wealthiest woman in the entire world.
The original Annie, the one with Albert Finney had class and soul, it's not a classic but it's more genuine and fun than this 'dead-behind-the eyes', shallow, for-the-money remake, which is as as cold and calculating as its heroine.
The story, for what it's worth is easy to summarise. Think Stuart Little, it's the same story but with a bloke running for mayor and a scheming assistant instead of a white cat. In this version of Annie our Daddy Warbucks is called Stacks.
The songs, sound dubbed and fake, the singers all look like they are lip synching their little hearts out. The songs jar and stick out like a sore thumb and despite a couple of 'fourth-wall' questions about 'are you singing to me?' feel jarring and awkward. The famous 'Hard Knock Life' song here is an empty, shallow karaoke performance, with a dance number so wooden and limp you can almost see the young actresses counting out their steps as they humourlessly work their way through the routine.
You seriously can't help thinking that Annie scammed the whole thing right down to the happy ending when her fake real parents are captured and killed after a massive police car chase before they can give evidence that would convince anyone that Annie was the mastermind behind the whole thing.
Dull, dreary and horribly manipulative, this is a soulless and joyless experience only somewhat enlivened by both Diaz and Bryne. Foxx comes across as a really creepy, pseudo Howard Hughes particularly since he too is an inventor, with a hygiene fetish, whose entire fortune is built on a privately run network of mobile phone masts that can track every single user's movements and conversations for the past eight years! He literally employes an entire floor of his headquarters to spy on his customers. Seriously, he could have gone from this film to being in a Bond film as the villain and you wouldn't have battered an eyelid.
Lacking soul, passion and fun this is a creepy, bland little film.
There's also one last thing I want to mention. This film opens in Annie's class where the children are reading essays about their favourite dead presidents. A cute red, wirey-haired girl in a red dress gives an enthusiastic talk about her favourite president, she's portrayed as a snobby, smarmy, know it all - her name, Annie A. She is supposed to be the old Annie, not this new one, who we meet next. The old Annie should be laughed, mocked and sneered at. Out with the old! In with the new! We can't have things based in the 1930s, how will today's sophisticated masses deal with poverty and food banks as set in those dark days before mobile phones and helicopters?