“It’s the hard-knock life for us.”
I have very fond memories from my childhood of watching John Huston’s musical, Annie, and singing along to the lyrics of “Tomorrow” and “It’s the Hard-Knock Life”. It was one of the films I rewatched the most as a child along with The Goonies and the Disney cartoons. So despite hearing some negative reviews, I still was excited about getting to watch the Annie remake for nostalgic reasons. One of my favorite films of 2012 was Beasts of the Southern Wild, so my expectations were even higher when I heard Quvenzhane Wallis was going to play Annie. Wallis is a force to reckon with and the perfect choice for Annie. This remake (which actually turned out to be more of a modern re-imagining) was directed by Will Gluck, whose latest films (Easy A, Friends with Benefits) I actually enjoyed. So all these elements combined, drew me into wanting to see it despite the very negative word of mouth. My expectations weren’t matched of course because Annie turned out to be a very flawed film, but I didn’t hate this musical either. Wallis’s performance was strong enough to keep me engaged with the story despite all the cheesy dialogues. The biggest disappointment for me however, were the musicals which felt too produced and at times those scenes felt more like a music video clip from MTV than anything else. The story is cliche and familiar, but at the same time it remains family friendly and it has a few emotional moments thrown in as well. For a flawed film, I found myself enjoying it quite a bit, but that was probably due to the nostalgic factor and my love for Wallis.
The cast of Annie is pretty solid, although there were some performances that didn’t work at all. Cameron Diaz is miscast in the film, playing Miss Hannigan, the guardian of the orphan girls. She goes completely over the top and got on my nerves almost in every scene she was in. She is a great actress, but this sort of cartoonish role which she’s played many times in the past, never works for her. I find her obnoxious every time she plays these exaggerated parts. The same could be said about Bobby Cannavale who never sells his role. I know that the weak screenplay was responsible for this, but the rest of the cast didn’t turn out that bad. David Mayas, Adele Akinnuoye-Agbaje, and Jamie Foxx are solid, but the standouts in this film were Wallis and Rose Byrne. They both bring a unique sweetness and charm to their role necessary for a musical like this. Byrne is a talented actress, and she is one of the best things about Annie. Unfortunately, the music never works and the screenplay is uninspired, but I still found most of the film entertaining and tolerable. I’ve seen a lot worse this year.