Mary Baker ’17 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
Annie, the famous red-haired moppet who has stolen hearts amidst the Great Depression since her Broadway premiere in 1977, is about to face a modern-day NYC in Will Gluck’s film adaptation of the classic musical.
Annie, due in theaters December 19, was originally set to be a star vehicle for Will Smith and his daughter Willow, of “Whip My Hair” fame. The film was stuck in pre-production since 2011, and neither Smith ended up being cast in the final product. This is probably for the best since the younger Smith was replaced by the youngest Oscar nominee to date: Quvenzhané Wallis. The elder Smith was substituted with Best Actor winner, Jamie Foxx. The cast is rounded out by Cameron Diaz as the villainous Miss Hannigan and Rose Byrne as Grace.
Wallis, as the titular character, brightens the screen every time she appears. Her singing, though previously untested, appears to be perfect for belting out the show-stopping tunes she is required to carry. Foxx also appears to be perfectly cast as Will Stacks (a modern day name-update of Daddy Warbucks) because he brings both award-winning acting and singing chops (Dreamgirls and Ray.)
The trailer immediately establishes the modern-day setting of the film by showing a glittering view of the famous New York skyline. The viewer is then introduced to the iconic Miss Hannigan through shrill screaming at the adorable orphans to clean the orphanage because “the city called, and they’re coming to inspect!”
Diaz has large shoes to fill, for the role has been played in the past by huge names like Kathy Bates and Carol Burnett. Diaz’s acting chops have yet to be proven, but a character as large and ridiculous as Miss Hannigan should allow her plenty of room to play. Diaz appears to have taken the character in a “white-trash” direction, but from the trailer, it is apparent that she could be the weak link in the film.
Annie also appears to be at risk of being too pushy on the modern take. There has never been a better time to remake a film about America’s economic troubles, so the movie is indeed timely. However, the references to George Clooney, Facebook, and other undoubtedly modern things detract from the timeless charm of the original play. The exception to this is the music. All the songs presented in the trailer had a thumping beat underneath them, thanks to Jay-Z’s production. This actually worked in favor to the movie’s modernity as Jay-Z’s contribution wakes up a somewhat sleepy score.
An interesting final note to make is Annie’s release date. Only six days after it is released in theaters, another high-profile stage-to-screen musical is being released: Rob Marshall’s Into the Woods. The competition between the two films will be interesting to watch. Annie is definitely targeted at the younger family/nostalgic adult set, while Into the Woods, which does not yet have an official trailer, is a dark twist on Grimm’s fairy tales. These two films may have significant audience overlap. With the success of Les Miserables over Christmas 2012, it will certainly be a battle of the movie musicals for the coveted top holiday spot. Fun fact: Into the Woods is Walt Disney’s first Broadway film adaptation since their 1999 adaptation of Annie.
All in all, Annie appears to be a light, fun musical romp through New York, using the time-honored score and story to show how music can help us forget some of our deepest troubles, if only for a little while.