Movie Reviews & Interviews from Washington

‘Annie’ Review: Starring Quvenzhane Wallis, Jamie Foxx & Cameron Diaz

How in the world does Will Gluck, director of the hilarious and memorable Easy A and writer/director of the super charming romantic comedy Friends with Benefits write and direct Annie? It’s just as shocking to me as it is to you. With Beasts of the Southern Wild’s Quvenzhane Wallis skipping around New York City in a one-note performance and the normally-wonderful Cameron Diaz and Bobby Cannavale butchering my favorite song “Easy Street,” there’s just a lot going on that is wrong about this re-telling of the famous musical about an adorable orphan, er…, excuse me, foster kid and her journey to find her real parents.

Foster kid Annie (Quvenzhane Wallis) lives with her messy and once-hopeful Hollywood star foster mom Mrs. Hannigan (Cameron Diaz), who also takes care of other little girls dreaming of finding their forever home. While Annie’s foster sisters long to be adopted, Annie dreams of being reunited with her real parents who left her at the doorstep of a restaurant with half a locket, promising they would return to her when they can manage.

One day when Annie is running around the city, she literally runs into Will Stacks (Jamie Foxx), NYC millionaire who is also running for Mayor. Mr. Stacks pulls Annie out of the road from being hit by a car, while someone nearby captures the event on a phone. When the story is blasted all over social media that Stacks saved a little girl from being run over, his political ratings skyrocket. Stacks’ greasy campaign manager Guy (Bobby Cannavale) suggests that he take Annie in to live with him for a few weeks, knowing that the public will eat it up, boosting his ratings even higher. Stacks’ lovely assistant Grace (Rose Byrne) befriends Annie immediately and after a few high profile appearances here and there, Annie has become NYC’s new “it-girl.”

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Though the film boasts a talented cast, there’s nothing the actors can do here to save the film. Wallis is cute as a button, but she just isn’t a strong Annie. Her and Jamie Foxx work well and harmonize beautifully together but there are several times throughout the film where Wallis cannot lead the picture. Her performance is completely one-note and a major step down from 2012’s Beasts of the Southern Wild. Jamie Foxx is a fun Daddy Warbucks-type character at times, but there are scenes where even the Ray actor looks like he doesn’t know what he is doing here.

As a massive supporter of Cameron Diaz’s work and career, (heck I even have a signed copy of her “Body Book”!), this just wasn’t the right role for her. Diaz is way over the top right from the start, attempting to add her own flavor to Mrs. Hannigan, and as the movie goes along she seems to become more at ease, but overall it just doesn’t work. Diaz and Cannavale’s rendition of “Easy Street” is cringe worthy and blasé. The character of Lily was truly missed in this reimagining of Annie. Though Diaz appears to give it her all, this famous role just wasn’t right for her.

Thank goodness for Rose Byrne, who is the sole saving grace of the movie. Byrne has a gorgeous singing voice and watching her dance around with Wallis is super sweet. Byrne understands the role as Stacks’ assistant and it’s apparent she is had a blast while making the movie.

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The first half of Annie is promising and the classic songs “Hard Knock Life” and “Tomorrow” are enjoyable and fulfilling, but as the film goes on and eventually wraps up into one cheese ball doofy ending, we’re wondering when’s it all going to end during the last 30 minutes of the film.

Though one can appreciate the modernized version of the classic musical and kids may find it fun, Wallis, Foxx and Diaz deserve much better, we all deserve much better when watching Annie. If anyone can muster “I Think I’m Going to Like It Here” or “Easy Street,” well, props to you. All and all, this is just a bad, bad week for Sony Pictures.

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