Happy Saturday MMT Family! I wanted to have this one up last night, because you know I have been anticipating this Annie remake for quite some time. Unlike many of the people whose critiques I’ve glimpsed, I highly enjoyed this version and then some. Let’s be clear, this is not your great-grandparents’ or grandparents’ version of the beloved Little Orphan Annie comics, and it certainly isn’t the same 1977 Broadway stage production or even my generation’s classic (1982) movie version. And this new movie proclaims that boldly in the film’s opening classroom scene – where there’s a cute parody of the classic Annie type giving a my favorite president speech. But when Quvenzhane Wallis (Annie) steps up to the front of the class for her speech, backed by classmate participation with call-responses and hand percussion, on her favorite president Franklin Delano Roosevelt, one of the first hat tips to the classic, it is cemented that this is something new (and really the produced by Will Smith, Jada Pinkett-Smith and Shawn “Jay Z” Carter credits should have been a clue even before 😉 )
Though there was nothing simple about the “Great Depression,” the event that forms the backdrop of the original film, the times were certainly simpler when it came to our ability to impact social reach or access others socially almost instantaneously. And this is the effective update of the Annie remake – bringing the story into the era of social media & technology – with a display of how it impacts people lives, both great and small. Will Stacks (Jamie Foxx) is an indifferent cell-phone tycoon running for mayor of New York in contrast to Wallis’ Annie, a foster kid who manages to maintain and share the brightest outlook with everyone she interacts, despite her meager circumstances. The movie takes great care to insert current topics relevant to today’s youth – like the update to foster care vs. the term orphan and highlighting youth literacy issues.
The multicultural cast – loved seeing Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Tracie Thoms, and Dorian Missick in key roles – was a beautiful reflection of what could and should happen more often with big studio productions, with lead Quvenzhane Wallis anchoring this modern version. Wallis has an unspoken, “old soul” quality with her delivery and facial expressions – and I believed her journey in this story. And her moment with new song “Opportunity” is a sweet one, despite what some callous critics are stating.
And let me simply ask this, why is it so hard for some to acknowledge the talent of an eleven-year-old, who by the age ten was an Academy award nominee? She sings, no one said the baby had to be Whitney Houston. And she dances, no one said she had to be Katherine Dunham. Her job in this movie was to act primarily and make us believe she was Annie and for most fair-minded people wanting to enjoy a fun, family film this holiday season, I think she will appropriately fit the bill. And if it or she is not for you, then tough – she got the role and rocked it!
Again there were a couple of original film references I noted, like the aforementioned nod to FDR and the fictional band named “Leaping Lizards” that played in one scene. I also wondered if the “rescue” George Washington bridge scene near the end – okay it’s not really a spoiler if you know the story MMT fam – was a nod to the scene with the late Geoffrey Holder and his character Punjab who rescues Annie in the 1982 film.
I do wish there was more of a character build for the other foster kids in Miss Hannigan’s (Cameron Diaz) care, since there were name/character changes and the beginning of this one felt a little rushed to get to the good stuff. I also must be honest and admit that Diaz, although she’s shown her comedic timing in several other films, did not win me over as Miss Hannigan until nearly the end of film. I like her comedy wise as the sweet one (My Best Friend’s Wedding, There’s Something About Mary) versus the mean-spirited one or vixen. By contrast, Jamie Foxx was a fun Daddy Warbucks….umm, my bad, Will Stacks and we all know he can sing, so the numbers with him were really cool. The chemistry between he and Wallis also worked well, and this film culminates in a very cute resolution to their respective characters’ journeys.
I took my youngest bestie, aka Jayla, and her mom with me to the Philly screening of Annie. At only two-years-old, Jayla visited my house and fell in love with the 1982 version on Netflix. We’ve watched it several times and I was excited to see how she would respond to the new version. She watched the film very intently, wanted to dance at certain scenes, and has talked about Annie, Quvenzhane’s version, her mother says since last Sunday’s screening. I was worried that the film, unlike the ’82 film with its stage musical similarities, was a bit too much for her – since it isn’t the same sing-song model – and honestly she did require a bathroom break and missed the big “Opportunity” number. But if it’s still on my little (moody) Gemini friend’s mind, I think it works not only for the school-age kids, but also tots. If they are not used to sitting for an extended period, the running time is 118 minutes, I’d recommend just sticking with school-age and older. They will certainly get a lot more – especially from the positive messages shared.
Alright family, you know the drill! Stop back and share comments after you’ve seen the film.
PS – Checkout the lyric video to “Opportunity” below and let me know your thoughts as well! 🙂
Until next thought family, Thomasena