In Praise of 'Annie'

Friday 23rd January 2015

I went to see Annie fully expecting to hate it. I even said before hand, “I’m only seeing this so I can have an informed opinion and fiercely defend the beloved 1982 original”. But five minutes into the movie I turned to my cinema chums and squealed, “This film is freakin’ awesome!!”

What I love about this reboot and update of Annie - the saccharine 1977 Broadway musical with music by Charles Strouse, lyrics by Martin Charnin, and a book by Thomas Meehan - is that rather than just plonk the stage show on screen, writer/director Will Gluck, along with fellow screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna, have reimagined the story for a 21st Century audience. As such, I didn’t care that it came complete with auto-tuned vocals or a Twitter-led car chase; it embodied youth and pop culture today.  

New songs by Sia also helped reinvent some of the original musical numbers which might have seemed out of place in modern day New York, but for an Annie geek like me, the songs that didn’t make the final cut were neatly worked into orchestrations elsewhere on the soundtrack, so I was happy.

New song 'Opportunity' performed by Quvenzhané Wallis

Quvenzhané Wallis shone in the title role. This girl may have received an Oscar nomination at the age of nine, but award nods are not always synonymous with going on to star in high-end movies; as the filmographies of fellow cast members Cameron Diaz and Jamie Foxx prove…! Diaz hams it up gloriously though as Miss Hannigan and Foxx makes for a loveable Mr Sacks (the modern day Daddy Warbucks). Rose Byrne made up for her weak vocal chops as Grace with her genuine affection for Annie, and cameos from the likes of Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis kept things comically, and unashamedly, cheesy. But, as with the original Annie, just as you’re think it’s getting a bit too mawkish, in come two great new ballads from Sia, ‘Opportunity’ and ‘Who Am I’, to get back to the heart of the piece. 

'Who Am I', a killer ballad that gives Miss Hannigan a heart

Ultimately, the message of Annie is about love, family and positivity, and why so many turn their nose up at musicalising such a gorgeous message throws me. I’ve always thought that the lyric “When I’m stuck with a day that’s grey and lonely, I just stick out my chin and grin and say, oh, the sun’ll come out tomorrow…” is a motto we can all live life by. Sometimes all we need, especially on a dark January day, is to smile.

I left the cinema buzzing. So much so I scared the Barista in the next door coffee shop when I went bounding in ordering tea and cake. “Sorry,” I beamed, “I’ve just seen Annie and it’s left me feeling so amazing, I’m on a real high!” That’s how I want to feel when I see a musical. Thank you Annie for being the gift that keeps on giving! 

- Anna