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ANNIE – Review

December 23, 2014

Film + Entertainment | by James Joseph

1111746 – ANNIE

A rising dread. An insidious, silent horror crawls through your blood vessels like a spider. Twenty minutes into Will Gluck’s suffocating, over-produced remake of the classic 1982 musical and you realise you’ve passed the point of no return from which this movie will never stop using a GarageBand-quality drum beat as the backing track to every single song it features. This will remain your reality for the next hour and a half, and at one point you may begin to wonder what will happen when those closing credits finally come scrolling up the screen.

Is this drum beat such a pervasive entity that it will follow you out of the cinema, attached to your being like some kind of demonic possession? Will you go home to discover that thudding noise lying behind every Edith Piaf song on your iTunes, every episode of House of Cards on your Netflix, inside your own head as you try to fall asleep at night? Will the only escape from that relentless “boom-tsch” be the sweet embrace of death itself?

Oh, but it’s for the kids, Gluck and his cohorts will cry. Think of their small minds trying to process the aesthetics of typical musical production, wrapping their heads around the sweeping camera movements and orchestral swells that turn the moving image into the grand stages of Broadway past and present. It would simply be too much; the only means through which we can communicate with this foreign breed is by turning ‘Together at Last’ into an Iggy Azalea video. Only with music that is less than two minutes long, cut at a nauseous speed, and produced within an inch of its life will we be able to speak to them.

The musical is toxic, so we must set musical numbers in spaces usually too physically small for musical numbers, leaving actors to awkwardly attempt to gesticulate in a helicopter without hitting all the spaces around them which are currently being taken up by bits of helicopter. Oh, and make sure to auto-tune every single vocal on the soundtrack so we can get ‘Tomorrow’ on the Top 40. That includes Jamie Foxx. Yes, Jamie “she take my money, when I’m in need” Foxx.

In reality, those are all sentiments that could only really be genuinely held by a person who was somehow not aware that Frozen was ever a thing, considering that was a gargantuan hit which barely deviated from all the classic set-piece moments, reprises, and harmonies of musical theatre. It’s a sentiment, indeed, which seems like a statistical impossibility until you realise that Annie was co-produced by Will Smith; because only something as whacked-out as Scientology could have been out-of-touch enough with the world not to realise Frozen was ever a thing.

While the Disney sensation trusted its young audience to cope with Broadway theatricality, Annie rattles on with a tone so patronising it crowns itself as the antithesis of all this year’s most successful family features. It’s a fact which only becomes more painfully obvious when Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (of Lego Movie fame) crop up to cameo-direct Annie’s movie-within-a-movie, delivering a pitch-perfect parody of YA franchises that looks a thousand times better than the movie you’re actually watching.

Quvenzhane Wallis;Jamie Foxx

If you need final proof of Annie’s misguided tone, just look as its young star Quvenzhane Wallis. Here’s one of the most affable and (importantly) least annoying child stars of the moment delivering a performance which achieved precocious attitude without a trace of bratty obnoxiousness; yet she ends up spending most of the movie trying to suppress a rising eyebrow at the lunacy of the adult performances hovering around her.

Wallis’ grounded presence is miles away from the usually ice-cool Jamie Foxx being forced to spit-take fountains worth of foodstuff like a giant baby who also happened to star in Django Unchained, or from Cameron Diaz’s grating Miss Hannigan, which has all the grace of an amateur improv troupe trying to act drunk for the first time in their lives. Her mouth moves so much, and with such ferocity, you’re forever in fear she might dislocate her jaw.

It’s hard to lose yourself in a movie which tries this desperately for contemporary relevance, and any goodwill you might have reserved for Annie will likely be lost when it’s revealed that today’s Sandy (that faithful hound) obviously had to be named after the hurricane which took 286 lives. Who knows who that joke was meant for except for the studio employee who patted his own back immediately after pitching it. It’s been a bad, bad month for Sony.

Annie is out in UK cinemas from December 20th

Clarisse Loughrey