Musical/Comedy, 118 Minutes, 2014
There’s an elephant in the room with this one and it’s kind of a stupid elephant. Like those stuck-up ones in “Dumbo” that didn’t like him because of his ears; lobe-ist bitches.
This is not “Black Annie”.
It just isn’t. It would have been better if it was. Instead the movie lives on half-measures and safe choices.
The two main characters are black, but they’re still outnumbered by bankable white people. The music is modernized, but without any edge or soul, like a pair of plastic safety scissors. There are a few irksome concessions to “urban culture” – like the otherwise inexplicable change of “Daddy Warbucks” to “Mr. Stacks” – but nothing that casual viewers will notice.
It could have taken a chance and told a timeless story from a new perspective. One that may have been new to some and more relatable to others. It may have failed. It could have been awkward, trite or even insulting. It also could have been something special; something meaningful.
Instead, we got this. The characters, black and white, are all vanilla. Perfectly nice and refreshing, but not exciting or challenging in any way. The many changes in the story are meaningless. Despite irking purists, they neither add to nor detract from the proceedings. The musical numbers are decent, but filmed with tight, fast cuts that eliminate any continuity of motion or sense of skill.
The acting and performances are serviceable enough for the overly simplistic material. Cameron Diaz [IMDB] tries, but falls flat. Jamie Foxx’s [IMDB] talent is difficult to restrain; he’s impressive despite the script. Quvenzhané Wallis [IMDB] has all of the energy and sass that the role needs. This could indicate a real depth of talent or just youthful precociousness, but the material doesn’t have the depth to say for certain.
This is “Annie,” for better or worse. Updated to have computers and cell phones and flat screen TVs. In 5.1 surround sound and high-definition, but still “Annie”. Fans can rest assured that while it’s far from the best version they’ll see, it’s also far from the worst.