It’s always difficult remaking a story already familiar to audiences, and “Annie,” a new adaptation of the story told in the 1982 film, has been earning mixed reviews for its new take on the story of the plucky orphan who wins over a wealthy man.
The original version of “Annie” told the story of the title character (Aileen Quinn), who lives in an orphanage run by Miss Hannigan (Carol Burnett) during the Great Depression and dreams of being reunited with her real parents. She is chosen to be a guest at the home of rich businessman Oliver Warbucks (Albert Finney) and slowly wins him over, though Miss Hannigan is determined to use Annie’s connection with him to her advantage.
The new take on the story is set in the present day and stars “Beasts of the Southern Wild” actress Quvenzhané Wallis as Annie, who lives with Miss Hannigan (Cameron Diaz) – in this version, her foster mother. Will Stacks (Jamie Foxx) is running for mayor and is told to bring her to stay with him so as to impress voters.
Monitor film critic Peter Rainer gave the movie a C- overall but praised Wallis’s performance.
“She’s radiantly charming,” he wrote. “Jamie Foxx, in the Daddy Warbucks role, has a touching rapport with her. Otherwise the movie is indifferently directed and, for better or worse, numbers like ‘Tomorrow’ don’t exactly bring down the house. Considering this musical has its roots in Depression-era American, Gluck’s contemporary take on the material is eerily lacking in observations about the rich/poor divide in this country.” He wrote of the new music in the film, “none [are] memorable.”
Other movie reviews are also mixed. Inkoo Kang of TheWrap wrote that “no amount of self-referential jokes can make up for a lack of heart and spirit, and thankfully, “Annie” lacks neither.” However, Kang also found that “hints of darkness – clumsy stabs at realism, really – dampen the musical’s inborn cheeriness without lending it gravitas” and wrote that “the film is far more interested in what [Will’s] money can buy… Wallis is only passable as an actor and singer here… Byrne is ever winsome… [however], Foxx is the one we can’t stop watching.”
Meanwhile, Ronnie Scheib of Variety called “Annie” “overblown yet undernourished… more of a facelift than an update.”
“Wallis conveys the energy and perkiness of her character convincingly and charmingly, but lacks even a hint of the desperation,” Scheib wrote. “Indeed, the entire film lacks any sense of poverty beyond the simple absence of luxury… The acting in general tends toward the one-note and over-the-top. Foxx, the film’s only performer with extensive singing experience onscreen, wisely opts for understatement… ‘It’s the Hard-Knock Life’ is winningly executed.”
And David Rooney of the Hollywood Reporter called the film a “misconceived contemporary update… directed with a stunning lack of musicality [and a] witless screenplay.”
“The overwhelming impression… is that the creative team doesn’t actually like the material much,” Rooney wrote. “Every ounce of charm has been pulverized out of the musical in a strained effort to drag it into the social-media age... Here, [Wallis is] reduced to one-note, processed pluckiness... Putting aside the grating performances, the clumsy direction, the visual ugliness and the haphazard development of story, character and relationships, the movie is hobbled by its intrinsic unsuitability for contemporary retelling... Of the cast, Foxx escapes most unscathed.”