‘Annie’: Film Review

January 4, 2015 0 Comments

Annie Movie Poster

It’s really difficult to believe that this film could garner so much controversy over a stupid clothing line. Regardless, similar to how LaSean Rinique can trivialize something so insignificant, this movie also trivializes the legacy of the original cartoonist of the Annie comicstrip: Harold Grey. I remember in previous films I referred to it as a ‘reimagining,’ and for the most part, it is. However, It’s more accurate the say that this movie got a facelift rather than a makeover.

Contrary to the original comic and the musicals that referenced complex issues occurring in the state of the union, this film is geared towards a younger generation, to its dumbed down on a massive scale. After all, it is a comedy. There is nothing wrong with targeting the younger generation. The problem is that this is done in the least clever way possible.

One of the biggest ironies in the film is that it provides a rather progressive overtone to the film, even going as far as to portray the economic policies of President Franklin D. Roosevelt in a positive light. I’m paraphrasing, but I think Annie’s take on the New Deal went little something like this.

Poor people were angry because they didn’t have jobs. Wealthy people went around acting as if they were better than everyone else. FDR came along and gave everyone jobs and made poor people richer. There was no need for the rich to sweat about poor people becoming richer, because the rich also became richer.

I’m not going to bash a children’s comedy for being grossly inaccurate, but I think Harold Grey had a different account on what happened during the Great Depression. He did after all live through it. Sometime during the 1940’s, Grey ran a strip where Oliver Warbucks (Annie’s Benefactor) was dying through a mysterious disease. That disease was actually symbolic of what was considered FDR’s America, and Warbucks was considered the symbolism of Capitalism. It wasn’t under FDR’s death after in 1945 when Warbucks suddenly started to feel alittle better, even going as far as to say how happy he was with the sudden ‘change in climate.’ Not to mention, Grey was on the record saying this:

I…have despised Roosevelt and his socialist, or creeping communist, policies since 1932, and said so in my stuff, and was allowed to do so…

It goes without saying that Grey was no fan of FDR, or the New Deal. Sadly, the 2014 reimagining of Annie isn’t the first adaption that portrayed FDR has heroic. The musicals were also famous for doing the exact same thing, so the 2014 adaption really waste zero time being unoriginal. Of course, when Grey died all of his work became public domain, but the films and the musicals are nothing more than a big middle finger to his legacy. The question: Is this film any good.

This film could have been interesting, but it was too busy being generic. The biggest problem wasn’t the fact that the movie feels too rehashed, but too many of the characters are over-the-top. You have a bitter, anger, alcoholic foster mother named Colleen Hannigan (Cameron Diaz), when she isn’t coming up with new ways of making everyone hate her, she is playing the role of a gold digger. Either that, or reminiscing of the glory days where she use to be somebody (while under the influence). You have Will Stacks (Jamie Foxx), the Oliver Warbucks of the film, who is technology tycoon and is also running for mayor of New York City. When he’s not being an out-of-touch elites, he worries about becoming infected, as he has a huge phobia of germs. And then, you have the charming Grace (Rose Byrne) who is Stack’s assistant and obsessively needs express her career-gal loneliness by constant babbling about how many friends she has.

Sadly, Foxx’s character is probably the best in the film, as Wallis’s character is completely wooden. Wallis, Byrne and Foxx deliver decent performances when they’re together, but nothing as nearly interesting as the trailer. Jamie Foxx pulled quite a few one-liners that provided more amusement than I was expecting. Although Byrne’s line reads seemed so surreal, it was a pleasure just listing to her voice (Although she is Aussie, I think she was going for a British accent in this film). Although a great performance from child actors is demanding, Quvenzhané Wallis could not have sounded any less like a clone of the overconfident children of Jada and Will Smith (who is one of the film producers, by the way). I know she has done great work in the past with films like ‘Beast of the Southern Wild,’ but Annie gave her nothing to compensate on her strengths.

There are enough twist in the film to keep the film from feeling too recycled, but its not enough to keep the movie interesting. The film is based on the musical adaptation, so does it have music? Indeed it does. Unfortunately, none of the characters look or sound like they’re actually singing. Although most of the music in the film is original, the best musical number came from the song everyone knows best: The Hard Knock Life. Come to think about it, this is probably why Jay-Z decided to produce this film as well  Considering how much this film bombed at the box office, I hope it was worth it. But we can also add this to another of his money losing ventures, similar to the Brooklyn Nets.

Story-wise, the creativity isn’t anywhere to be found. There are barely any situations where the audience can emphasize with the main character. Yes, she is an orphan, she’s moved from home to home throughout her life and she is on a constant search for her parents. That is a terrible situation for any child to grow up in; however, the film (or at least, the character) treats this as if this is the least of her worries. The energy and perkiness of Annie seems to drown out any of  hint of desperation that she may be feeling. This is fine I guess if you’re going to make the most of your situation, but theres no hint of poverty in the entire film. Instead, Annie (as well as her foster sisters) seem to be suffering from an absence of luxury, rather than poverty.

Interesting character cameos that I did seem to enjoy are Michael J. Fox endorsing Will Stacks’ opponent for Mayor (his name escapes me right now). Rihanna, Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis played a brief role as characters of ‘Moonquake Lake,’ which is a film inside of the film. The only actors among them I am interested in is Mila Kunis, because she is starring in another Sci-Fi film releasing later this month. Other than that, celebrity cameos, aside from Michael J. Fox, were not significant to the development of the story.

Final Verdict: D

Yeah, I started rating my reviews now. It helps make it easier for me to keep track of them. Whereas most movie critics had the misfortunate of having this film being their last of 2014, I have the misfortunate of having this film be my first review 2015. I was really hoping to have a fairly decent film to start the new year, but this movie fails to deliver. It’s not entirely boring, as the only times I actually looked away to take notes was during the musical numbers, but you wouldn’t exactly miss anything if you slept through the entire film.

Did I also mention that there are TWO Annies’ in the film (another HUGE irony). The other Annie is known as ‘Annie A.’, while the Quvenzhané Wallis Annie is ‘Annie B. (and no, the ‘B’ isn’t for ‘Black’).’ I’d give you two guesses as what color is the other Annie, but you’re probably only going to need one. Regardless of the color of the second Annie, the only reason I even decided to see this film was because of this stupid petition LaSean Rinique started.

She also sat through the same film, so its even mind boggling why she is even decided to take this controversy so far. If anything, it validates everything that I originally said: Annie is a fictional character, and the writers can make her whatever ethnicity she wants. If anything, this petition comes across as pandering rather than wanting diversity. We obviously don’t complain about the lack of ethnic diversity for models of other clothing stores (and there are quite a bit, for anyone who has ever shopped in SoHo or 5th Ave Manhattan). But suddenly we are supposed to be outraged because people believe that the new Annie is ‘supposed’ to be Black, when really her color is merely a product of the imagination of the writer?

We’ve seen and read of bigger reasons to get upset over. The recent Sony hacks is a testament to that, but the Annie controversy hardly matches anything of that magnitude. It’s a below average film with a rehashed plot and a racially mixed main character who isn’t really worth fighting over. Hollywood is remaking everything in the worse possible fashion, so naturally Annie was next in line, however, it destroys all artistic and cultural meaning. Needless to say, its good for today’s youth to watch if you ever want to give your children of cliff note version of what the Great Recession was like sometime in the future.

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