Take a Drink: whenever Annie corrects anyone who calls her an orphan (she’s a foster kid, dammit!)
Take a Drink: every time Will Stacks spits out food.
Take a Drink: whenever Twitter is mentioned.
Take a Drink: for every celebrity cameo.
Take a Drink: for every early-90’s pop song Miss Hannigan listens to. Take Two: if it’s C&C Music Factory.
Take a Drink: for every reference to the original play/1982 movie (pay attention to the drumhead in the “Easy Street” scene. Also: Jamie Foxx’s head later in the movie.)
Do a Shot: when the origin of Sandy’s name is revealed. (Seriously, who thought that was a good idea?)
Chug: during the endless helicopter scene.
By: BabyRuth (Four Beers) –
Once upon a time, several years ago, Will Smith and Jay-Z were hanging out at Will’s mansion (which looks exactly like the set of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air), drinking champagne and shooting the shit.
Will Smith: “Damn Jay, I have this big unsightly pile of millions just collecting dust over there [motioning to an actual tower of money]. I just don’t know what to do with it.”
Jay-Z: “I hear you man, I have one of those too and Beyonce keeps throwing more on top of it every time she comes home. Sometimes she accidentally throws her keys in with it and then we have to dig through it to find her keys until she just gives up and buys another Bentley. It’s so frustrating.”
Will Smith: “I hear ya. Well, anyway, I’m thinking about investing in a project, maybe like, a movie. I’m just not sure what.”
Just then, Jay-Z’s 1998 hit “Hard Knock Life” begins to play (because Will Smith and Jay-Z always listen to only their own music while hanging out in their mansions).
Jay-Z: “I GOT IT! HOW ABOUT AN UPDATED VERSION OF ANNIE!? ”
Will Smith “THAT’S INCREDIBLE!”
Jay-Z: “WE COULD PRODUCE IT TOGETHER!”
Will Smith: “YES!! AMAZING! CAN WE STOP YELLING THOUGH?!”
Jay-Z: “I’m just so excited! I adore that musical! I love it even more than Cats. Oh! We can modernize everything and add hip hop beats to the songs!”
Will Smith: “I can see it all now! In fact… I got my Sony Pictures Entertainment newsletter the other day and I think they may be interested. [Grabs the Sony Pictures Entertainment Newsletter] See? Right here under Amy Pascal’s political humor cartoon and next to the crossword puzzle of top executives’ mothers’ maiden names, it says they are looking to do a musical!”
Jay-Z: “I saw that too! But who can we get to star in it? They’ll have to be able to sing.”
Will Smith : “Nah man, that’s not important. We’ll just use Auto-tune.”
Jay-Z: “That’s true. But we still need the perfect Annie.”
Will Smith: “I know just the girl! WILLOW, GET DOWN HERE!”
Jay-Z: “Uh, I don’t…”
Willow Smith: “What is it dad? I was just upstairs reading some Osho and thinking about the melancholiness of the ocean. This life is a fragment of a holographic reality that a higher consciousness made.”
Will Smith: “Isn’t she great? Only ten years old. Oh, and she’s a great singer–sweetie, sing that hit song of yours.”
Willow Smith: “I WHIP MY HAIR BACK AND FORTH I WHIP MY HAIR BACK AND FORTH I WHIP MY HAIR BACK AND FORTH…”
Jay-Z: “I just remembered, Beyonce needed me to pick up some tampons. I gotta go. We’ll talk about this later. Maybe in a few weeks. Or years. Yeah, bye.”
That may not be exactly how the new retelling of Annie came to be (though that’s how I imagine it, especially the monthly paper Sony newsletter because that’s how Hollywood works, right?), but several years and an international threat of war stemming from a Seth Rogen movie later, here comes 2014 Annie.
By the time the film was to begin shooting, original star Willow Smith was too old for the part and replaced with Quvenzhané Wallis (who, in case you’ve forgotten, is the youngest Best Actress Oscar Nominee for her breakout role in Beasts of the Southern Wild). Also on board, Jamie Foxx as
Daddy Warbucks Will Stacks, Cameron Diaz as Miss Hannigan, and Rose Byrne as Grace.
Will Stacks is a cell phone mogul turned New York City mayoral candidate. He’s a self-made billionaire, germaphobe, and prefers to be alone. His inner circle consists of only his loyal assistant Grace and swarmy campaign manager Guy (Bobby Cannavale). Stacks is down in the polls, especially after an embarrassing moment goes viral, and needs a boost in his approval ratings.
Meanwhile, in Harlem, lives drunken failed pop-star Miss Hannigan and her group of foster children (she lives off the weekly government checks she receives per kid). One of those kids is Annie Bennet. Annie was abandoned by her parents at four years old. They left only a locket and a note written on a restaurant receipt (apparently while enjoying some cannolis, they decided to dump their kid) that says they’ll be back, someday. Annie goes to the restaurant every week hoping they will eventually return.
Annie and Stacks’ paths cross, literally, when Will happens to be in her neighborhood and saves her from getting hit by a car. Or course that moment goes viral too and soon poll numbers are on the rise!
It’s revealed that Annie is a
n orphan foster kid and Guy has a great idea for a publicity stunt – have Annie come to stay with Stacks. Annie’s down with that and will gladly smile for the paparazzi in exchange for getting away from Hannigan and living in a beautiful penthouse with screensaver walls!
Will Annie eventually melt the heart of the stern, career-driven Stacks and make him a better person? Will she ever find her shithead parents? Will Cameron Diaz ever work again after this movie?
Even before the Sony hack and resulting early online leak, this film seemed doomed from the start. Many children of the 80s that grew up with the 1982 John Huston version (shoutout to the women that remember being permanently scarred watching star Aileen Quinn talk about getting her period during special movie for the girls day at school years later) and even those that preferred the 1999 TV-movie starring Kathy Bates and Alan Cumming felt updating the story was a bad and unnecessary idea. It’s just one of those things that people hold nostalgic affection for. “How dare they?” “Get an original idea, Hollywood!” It was almost too easy of a target.
Well, despite all the hate this movie is getting, it’s really not that terrible. Parts of it are actually kind of fun. The original songs from the Broadway play and earlier film adaptations have been updated, some more than others and in some cases, they work. I particularly enjoyed the Stomp-esque “Hard Knock Life,” the sappy “Maybe,” and of course “Tomorrow,” all of which remain faithful to their original arrangements.
Quvenzhané Wallis is plucky and adorable and makes a perfectly suitable Annie that should silence any naysayers upset that Annie is no longer a red-headed white girl (the opening scene is a big “You mad?” to those people). Jamie Foxx is understated and effective, if a bit phoned-in (see what I did there?), and has some sweet moments with Quvenzhané. Plus, he’s the only actual singer in the movie, which lends some credibility to, you know, a musical. Rose Byrne is loveliness personified as Grace, grounding the movie and giving it a much needed dose of heart.
The “Lets Go to the Movies” scene is reworked as let’s go to a big movie premiere with a ludicrous movie-within-a-movie including some hilarious celebrity cameos. It’s downright silly, but pretty darn entertaining.
It seems as if Bobby Cannavale and Cameron Diaz are acting in an entirely different movie. Both ham it up to Disney Channel levels of hysteria. While they’re certainly having loads of fun, it’s distracting.
“No, YOU’RE overacting!”
A lot was said about Diaz when she was announced as the new Miss Hannigan, mostly doubts about her singing ability, or lack thereof. I didn’t have an issue with that. Miss Hannigan drunkenly warbles through her songs, so the role doesn’t require whole lot of vocal prowess. What’s more important is the attitude. Again, I didn’t have an issue with Diaz’s casting there. She’s been quite successful in comedy and can be very funny. Plus, she has a great bitchface. Despite all this, the end result screams miscasting.
Diaz is so over-the-top in what appears to be an attempt at an homage to Carol Burnett, that she is an unbelievable caricature. I don’t know whether she is at fault or if director Will Gluck kept screaming “MORE!” Whichever it is, it’s just too, too much.
She sure does try though and I do give her props for the effort and not being afraid to look ridiculous, contorting her face to Jim Carrey proportions.
Cannavale is slightly less guilty, and it’s fun to watch him spar with real-life girlfriend Byrne, but he overdoes it too, playing the conniving campaign manager like a slimy used car salesman. Though Guy is a new character, it’s easy to predict his eventual role later in the movie.
As I mentioned, many of the original songs, over-produced and heavily auto-tuned as they are, work just fine, but some do not and are often hard to recognize. “I Think I’m Gonna Like It Here” is unnecessarily hacked into a completely different song- lyrics, melody, and all.
But even worse are the new songs (penned by songwriter Sia) which are so forgettable I actually forgot them before they were even over. Annie has a big moment in the middle of the film when she performs at a fancy gala event in front of hundreds. What could have been a great moment for the show-stopping “Tomorrow” is wasted on the ironically-titled throwaway “Opportunity.” (“Tomorrow” is featured earlier in the movie.)
Then there’s a scene in which Stacks and Annie take a helicopter ride around Manhattan and Jamie Foxx sings a boring song called “This City’s Yours” about how he worked hard and is rich and stuff that it seems to go on forever. It’s as excruciating as that time Kelly Clarkson and Justin Guarini took a fifteen minute boat ride in the cinematic classic From Justin to Kelly. (Note to movie musical directors: transportation and singing don’t mix well.) If they had to include a number about obtaining success in a big city, I happen to know Jay-Z has a far catchier one about concrete jungles where dreams are made of that wouldn’t seem out of place in this movie.
I’d be lying if I wasn’t slightly disappointed that the character of Punjab is nowhere to found. I know, I know, Punjab isn’t a character in the Broadway show (I was equally disappointed when I saw the revival of Annie a couple years ago and learned this), and as an adult, I now realize that he wasn’t exactly the most politically-correct character in the 1982 film, but shoot, Punjab was cool.
But who needs Punjab when we have social media to save the day? (That literally happens in this movie. Spoiler alert.)
Annie is a mixed bag, providing more kicks than kisses, but it’s not as bad as many are making it out to be. It loses some of its innocent charm in the transition from the Depression era to the more cynical 2014, but it means well and tries hard. Just a little too hard.