Little Orphan Annie is iconic. What started off as a 1930’s comic strip grew even further acclaim when it was turned into a Broadway musical and then a musical motion picture. Songs like “Hard Knock Life” and “Tomorrow” are engrained in our heads even if you aren’t familiar with the story, so it only seems right to make an updated version, right?
Academy Award nominated actress Quvenzhané Wallis (Beast of the Southern Wild) stars as the new Annie, an African American foster child who dreams of finding her birth parents. Jamie Foxx portrays a refurbished “Daddy” Warbucks, named Will Stacks, a rich Mayoral candidate who adopts Annie to woo voters. Cameron Diaz plays the role of Annie’s grumpy Foster mother while Rose Byrne plays Stacks’ secretary and love interest.
On paper, this should all be great. But it isn’t, it just flat out isn’t. Aside from being poorly acted (Cameron Diaz’ hammy performance made me want to gag) it is tremendously corny. Uses of social media are repeatedly shoved in our faces and middle aged characters use phrases like “I love it when you throw shade”, because apparently we just have to be reminded over and over again that this movie is in present day. Then there’s the music. All of the dance numbers and songs all seem unrehearsed and most of the people performing them look uncomfortable (especially Rose Byrne who should never be allowed to do a musical again). Then there are moments where the plot just falls apart, like antagonists in the film inexplicably dropping their cover halfway through carrying out their plan.
Sure, Wallis is absolutely adorable, but that gets old in about half an hour. If you’re going to remake something, it should be as good or better than the original, otherwise it just comes off as a soulless cash grab (see Total Recall). Maybe I’m being too harsh, because I wanted this to be like what The Wiz was to The Wizard of Oz. I’m sure children will love it (albeit children love pretty much anything geared toward them) and there are tons of adults who will find it cute. But forgive me for expecting a movie about a black Annie in Harlem, starring Oscar nominees, and produced by Will and Jada Pinkett-Smith to come off as something more than just a two-hour episode of Gullah Gullah Island.
FINAL GRADE: D-