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Hard knocks for ‘Annie’

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    This photo released by Colombia Pictures - Sony shows Quvenzhane Wallis, left, as Annie, and Jamie Foxx as Will Stacks, looking at a card she made for Stacks in a scene from Columbia Pictures' "Annie." (AP Photo/Columbia Pictures - Sony, Barry Wetcher)
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Someone should call child services over the way "Annie" has been so mistreated in the new, updated adaptation. This is an example of filmmaking abuse.

‘ANNIE’
Rated: PG
*
Opens Friday

This is no beloved story of an orphan with unlimited optimism. The new "Annie" has been stripped of its messages about a better tomorrow, drained of its holiday themes and saddled with a foster child plot line that makes the big adoption sequence less appealing.

These flaws could have been overlooked had the film not been loaded with so many embarrassingly bad performances, starting with Cameron Diaz as Miss Hannigan and ending with Annie herself, Quvenzhane Wallis.

You can bet your bottom dollar that this "Annie" is a failure.

Quvenzhane, who was so good in "Beasts of the Southern Wild," has mastered the musical theater cute kid look — a tilt of the head and eyes widened like a puppy. It’s when she sings that all the cuteness drains away.

What has made "Annie" such a monster hit is the singing prowess of those who have slipped on that famous red dress. Annie’s voice has to be strong enough to remind the audience that even in the biggest roar of despair and depression, her optimism will be heard. Quvenzhane’s voice is so thin that even the musical accompaniment drowns her out. She’s not much better as a dancer.

Quvenzhane is not alone. Rose Byrne makes for a wonderful assistant to the film’s version of Daddy Warbucks — Jamie Foxx as Will Stacks — but you can almost see her counting as she clomps her way through musical numbers.

Diaz is completely miscast. She can’t get across the bitterness that makes the character so unlikable at the start. And, she not only slips, but she falls hard pretending to act drunk.

The greed-is-good tone of the movie is the opposite of the stage production. Instead of Annie showing the world that all you need to survive is pure optimism that the sun will come out tomorrow, this Annie becomes intoxicated by wealth. This leads to endless scenes of opulence that overwhelm the more personal sequences.

It was also a major mistake to give Annie some legitimate clues to who her real parents are. It’s one thing for the spunky Annie to believe she will find her real parents. It’s another to have legitimate clues, which takes all of the energy out of the decision by Stacks to adopt the foster child.

The only saving grace is Foxx, who handles both the small moments and big musical numbers with ease. It’s too bad he’s surrounded by a supporting cast that dances like they are wearing lead shoes and sings with all the passion of a wet sponge.

Director Will Gluck stumbles in setting the movie during the summer and eliminating the Christmas elements. He also succumbs to wiping out any trappings of this having been a stage production, including a car chase in New York. "Annie" works by drawing the viewer into the young girl’s life and this film lacks all intimacy.

Rick Bentley, The Fresno Bee

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