By Nico Beland
Movie Review: B- (3 stars)
It’s a Hard Knock Life for Annie, no I’m serious, there have been multiple film and television adaptations of the Broadway musical of the same name over the years. Most notably Columbia Pictures’ 1982 adaptation which starred Carol Burnett as the cruel orphanage owner, Miss Hannigan, then there was Disney’s 1999 made for television adaptation for ABC’s The Wonderful World of Disney.
Now director, Will Gluck (Fired Up, Friends with Benefits, Easy A) and produced by the talented Smith couple, Will Smith (Men in Black trilogy, Ali, Hancock) and Jada Pinkett Smith (The Nutty Professor) brings us this modern re-imaging of the musical, which definitely has a different take on it than previous adaptations. For starters instead of a redhead, Annie is now an African-American girl and she’s living in a foster home instead of an orphanage.
The film is about a young orphaned girl named Annie Bennett (Quvenzhane Wallis-12 Years a Slave, Beasts of the Southern Wild) who lives in a run down foster home for girls in New York City and ruled by a cruel, alcoholic, control freak named Miss Hannigan (Cameron Diaz-The Mask, Shrek franchise, The Other Woman) who orders the orphaned girls around and makes their lives very miserable.
That is until a politician named Will Stacks (Jamie Foxx-Django Unchained, White House Down, The Amazing Spider-Man 2) saves Annie from getting hit by a van on the streets, and decides to take her into his home with his lovely assistant, Grace (Rose Byrne-Neighbors) because it will give him a better chance of winning an election for mayor.
Along the way Annie and Stacks develop a strong relationship and she considers him as a fatherly figure, however as much as she loves living with Stacks and Grace, her dream is to one day find her real parents.
Overall, this new take on Annie is certainly all over the place with its changes to the original source material, but honestly I think most of these updates make it better. I wasn’t a big fan of Aileen Quinn’s portrayal of Annie in the original 1982 movie and yet I found Quvenzhane Wallis’ portrayal to be very engaging, she is kind, a bit reckless, and has a big heart, just like a lot of kids and her relationship with Jamie Foxx is absolutely charming.
Although whenever I’m watching an Annie adaptation, whether it’s the 1982 film, the 1999 Disney special, or even an actual performance of it, I’m there not really for the orphans, although the orphans in this adaptation were pretty good, but I’m usually watching it for Miss Hannigan’s moments. Carol Burnett from the original movie was mean but very funny at the same time, but she was mainly just a mean orphan owner who had a serious drinking and smoking problem.
Cameron Diaz on the other hand took certain character traits of Carol Burnett’s Hannigan and made it her own, she starts off as a mean foster home owner, however as the film progresses she develops a soft side.
I also really enjoyed watching Jamie Foxx as Will Stacks, who is basically the remake’s version of Albert Finney’s Oliver Warbucks. He’s still got his Jamie Foxx charm and even packs a wonderful singing voice; honestly he should be casted in more musicals.
If you enjoyed previous adaptations of Annie, chances are you’ll find something to enjoy about this new take on the story. It certainly has enough heart and humor to get some joy out of any “Hannigan” in the audience.
It’s not a great adaptation, but it’s entertaining, funny, and very touching, not to mention it teaches the importance of family and caring, which can lead to a better “Tomorrow” when the sun comes up.