If you're going to remake a movie, it is always a nice idea when you at least attempt to make it at the very least a little different from the original. You can still pay tribute to the original without copying it word for word or scene for scene. On the surface, Annie (2014) is one of those movies where you might think, "Oh gosh, they're remaking that? Do we really need another Annie?" I will admit those were my first thoughts when I heard this movie was coming out, and realistically, no, we didn't need another one. But we don't need a lot of things. Once I saw this film though, I was very pleasantly surprised, and in this writer's opinion it is the best Annie we have right now.
Blasphemy, right? When the trailers for this musical hit, audiences were already hating it before it even came to the screen, saying, "NO! ANNIE HAS TO BE A REDHEAD!"
Why? Why not offer something different from the three or four other versions of the musical we’ve seen already? I’ll admit I was skeptical at first of this movie with the newly re-energized and revamped musical score and even some of the cast. But honestly, the things that people don't like about the film are the things that should be embraced. I liked having a more diverse cast, and the new arrangements and style of the memorable songs were fun and different, and added to the already more modern feel of the movie. The singing talent is wonderful in this film, there is amazing choreography to be seen, and there are several very heartfelt and emotional scenes in a version of the musical that is different enough to be unique and fresh, yet similar enough to still enjoy the nostalgia of the original. The cinematography doesn't hurt either; the sights, settings, colors, and sets of city streets, skyscrapers, and large-windowed apartments make it a beautiful-looking movie to watch. It has a message for everyone, yet it doesn't come across as too preachy. It is a very happy movie through and through. This film is not a disgrace to the original, it is simply a new take on it that a new generation of audiences can enjoy, and in no way enters the overly sappy or cheesy territory. Sia's new song written for the film, "Opportunity," is especially a highlight, along with dancing on the building rooftops to "I Think I'm Gonna Like it Here." Will Smith's Overbrook Entertainment delivers a more subtle and successful attempt here than The Karate Kid (2010) remake.
All performances are stellar across the board, including the supporting roles provided by Rose Byrne as Grace and Bobby Cannavale as Guy. Cameron Diaz gives one of her funniest and best comedic performances as landlady Ms. Hannigan, and Jamie Foxx balances an impeccable comedic timing and soft dramatic sensibility in his performance as Will Stacks. Quvenzhané Wallis (Oscar-nominated for Best Supporting Actress in Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012)) is no slouch in the singing department, and her take on Annie is heartwarming and inspiring. She has a big heart and personality, and offers a little more subdued approach to the character, which you can tell just in her performance of a song like "Tomorrow," a nice break from the sometimes blaring, belting singing of a redheaded eight-year old.
It is an upbeat, funny family film that is bright and full of that irresistible New York City energy and timelessness. This version of Annie touches the heart and deserves much more praise than it has received. It was the perfect, uplifting movie to be released for families during the holiday season. Yes, it’s different, but it takes the best of what the original had and shows it in a new light for the present day society. Annie does not disappoint; it puts an inspirational spring in your step and makes you really believe that “the sun will come out tomorrow.”