We all have that one musical (well, most of us) that we adamantly shake our heads at. It could be critically acclaimed, an absolute fan favorite, so powerful that it becomes part of elementary school taunts, a massive pop culture icon. Yet, the heels will burrow deep furrows into the ground if someone were to drag you to watch it. The furrows were dug deep when it came to anything related to Little Orphan Annie.
It all started with a comic strip by Harold Gray called Little Orphan Annie. It was completely different from the musical. I have never read the strips (those eyes..) but it always struck me as female counterpart to Tin Tin or Johnny Quest. Both of which I much preferred.
After the comic strip came a radio show. After the radio show, a musical was created. From the musical spawned an iconic red haired child tap dancing in a red dress. Since I have not watched the musical at all, I know that Annie is an orphan who somehow has a dog. The she somehow meets a millionaire who is named Daddy Warbucks (creepy) who decides to adopt her. This is background research that this reviewer has no interest in pursuing.
Then news of a modern reprise Annie came into my radar. To say politely, modern remakes of musicals are usually not favorable. Hollywood has a long history of recycling the same scripts and churning out remakes. Therefore there was a lot of preconceived and unbiased judgement ( I hadn’t even bothered watching the trailer) as I settled myself for internal snarkiness before the movie started.
Just like novels, musicals have to grab you in by the overture. If the overture fails at igniting your interest, then it’s a steep climb from there. Halfway into the overture in Annie and those judgement changed. At some part in the movie, it clicked that this was going to be a fun movie.
Most likely it was due to the subtle yet powerful adorableness of Quvenzhané Wallis. She is most famous for her role in Beasts of the Southern Wild. Her portrayal of Annie seems to be a good mix between the comic strip Annie and the red haired tap dancing Annie. Wallis plays Annie as foster child who is resourceful, quick-witted, strong-willed, and full of positive energy.
Annie is a hopeful foster kid (not orphan) who thrives on even the slimmeest sliver of hope. She is a young girl who spends every Friday in front of a cannoli shop to see if her real parents will come based on one single note that was left with her as a baby. Through her weekly ritual, she connects and interacts with those around her with a warm air. In the shinier parts of town, billionaire owner of a Stacks mobile company, Will Stacks (played by Jamie Foxx) is campaigning to be mayor of the city. In a chance meeting where he saves her life, events unfold that they both use one another for their own goal. Of course, they gain more than by the end of it.
The songs are what fleshes the movie the most. Without the music, a musical is well, not a musical. There is a modern reprise of “Tomorrow” and “Hard Knock Life” which are high levels of improvement from the original. There is a lot less inner cringing when these songs come on. The other songs are all enjoyable in their own segments. Two songs however are the cream of the crop and neither of them are from the original. The first is “The City’s Yours” sung by Jamie Foxx and Quvenzhané Wallis. Foxx’s smooth voice coupled with Wallis vocals creates this beautiful moment between a father and daughter (even though this is before he officially adopts her but it doesn’t take away from the moment). The second is Wallis singing “Opportunity”, a song by Sia. This song is the best showcase for Walli’s vocals and inner strength. It is mesmerizing and admittedly a tear jerker.
The modern remake is a great relief. It took what was iconic and memorable about the musical and reprised for a modern audience. The focus of the movie is also completely different. Even though Wallis has a great presence as Annie, she is not the main focus. The whole movie is carried equally between the characters, the story, and the story which creates unified message of the movie. A message that inspires and uplifts the viewer for days after that. So few non-animated viewers invoke genuine smiles and positive energy.
Whether this movie is shared with a friend, a loved one, family, or solo, this is a recommended holiday movie. What better way to celebrate the holidays than by a movie reminding us that family, no matter how it’s created, is what makes us live our life to the fullest.
Side note: Moon Quake Lake needs to become a legit movie. Or at least make T-shirt.
Annie will be released nationwide on December 19, 2014. Check out the main website for some behind-the-scenes cuteness.