Friday, December 19, 2014

Movie Review: Annie (2014) aka "Black Annie"

The new 2014 feature film version of the 1982 hit movie Annie was fabulous, and I enjoyed every minute of it because of the nostalgia wrapped up with familiar music and cultural advancement. It warmed my heart.

"Black Annie" (ever since the Saturday Night Live sketch, I can refer to it as nothing else, lol) follows the original plot, where a foster kid hopelessly waiting for her parents to return for her stumbles into some luck when she connects with one of the richest men in town. Given the opportunity to spend some time with him, she manages to win the ol' guy over with her charm, escape foster care forever, and dance her way into a happy and secure future filled with true love.

Nothing has changed, story wise. The sadness of the orphanage/foster home and the meanness of the foster mother are still the same. Annie's optimism and mischief are familiar. But what happens with this version is that society has changed, and some of the old elements have a new swing. For example, Daddy Warbucks is now "Mr. Stacks" (Jamie Foxx), and aside from the obvious addition of black main characters (with Quvenzhane Wallis as Annie), there are now cell phones in the picture and funky hip hop remixes to some of the original music.

It's the music that got me. The familiar melodies to "Maybe" and "I Think I'm Gonna Like It Here" made me smile, because these are songs I grew up on. In the 80s, Annie was a movie that me and my peers watched regularly, and loved immensely.

Quvenzhane was a cute leading lady of the movie: a little girl with grown expressions and a serious comedic touch...her sense of humour was adorable, and I have a feeling that her sharp-witted Annie characteristics weren't too far off from her real personality.

I like Jamie Foxx. I'm a fan, so it was really cute to see him in this warm-and-fuzzy role as Mr. Stacks, and to see him fully commit to this musical and do it in an authentic way that never made me question him as a man, or actor. It was nice to see him in this child-friendly movie, and it was really touching the way Black Annie changed his world.

The new spin on "Daddy Warbucks" was a major change, because the cell phone empire of Mr. Stacks really helps to drive the plot. In the end, rather than scaling walls and high-speed car chases, it is a series of Tweets and posts on social media from children across New York that help the authorities locate Annie after she has been taken away by her "fake" parents--a nice update to the story.

I pretty much enjoyed this film from top to bottom...however the one thing that that didn't sit well with me was the performance of Cameron Diaz, who I normally really like in movies. Her character Miss Hannigan, as a failed 90s pop singer, did deliver a few of the movie's laughs for me, but her remake of the character was the least authentic to me. Jamie Foxx made Mr. Stacks his own, and the remix of Annie's character was definitely original...but I felt that Cameron was trying too much to be like the original Miss Hannigan (Carol Burnette) rather than trying to make this character her own.

Also, while it was fabulous to hear Jamie Foxx singing show tunes, and the other musical inserts into the movie, Cameron's lack of vocal talent was a bit of a damper on things. I wouldn't have minded if they dubbed a real singer's vocals over her parts, for the sake of the movie. It wasn't unbearable, but it just wasn't right for a "musical." Cameron's a great actress, but I think in this case they could have found a Miss Hannigan with real singing talent, and less over-the-top antics emulating a character that has already been done wonderfully. Carol Burnette's role was so strong and such an iconic character in movie history, that it may have been impossible for any actress to come in and make that role her own.

But despite that small distraction from the plot and songs...the movie is really enjoyable. Cheesy...most definitely! At the end when the full cast is dancing and skipping their way down the streets of New York, I had to laugh. It's corny, but it's ANNIE! I would expect nothing less.

It's nice to see pop culture take the steps to recreate classic pieces, and to infuse realistic cast changes and visuals. I love that the generation of today's children can enjoy the story and music that I have always loved, and do so in a hip and current manner.

Great movie for kids, and for big kids like me who can relive their childhood through the adventures of this loveable little orphan. Black or white...Annie is an uplifting story.

Written by Stacey Marie Robinson for Kya Publishing's Urban Toronto Tales blog.


  1. An okay movie, if that's all your expecting. Anything more, you'll be slightly disappointed. Good review Stacey.

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