- What does hard-knock life mean?
- It means it sucks.
Well, it was a hard-knock viewing of the new Annie movie, opening Friday at theaters across the USA, believe me. When you think about everything that can go wrong with a "modernized" movie version of the '70s Broadway musical, here you have it.
The film starts with an unnecessary set-up of our 2014 Annie explaining the Depression and the FDR Presidency to her public schoolmates. Leaving, the ambitious and spunky tike easily convinces a New Yorker to lend her her bike, promising to return it (which, I believe, she never does).
While the 14-year-old Oscar nominee (Beasts of the Southern Wild) Quvenzhane Wallis is a pert, lovely 10-year-old Annie with a fantastic theatrical voice, the script and dialogue work against her for the most part and, perhaps, she's directed here to be a little too bubbly. Millionaire Daddy Warbucks is now politician Will Stacks in a very cynical portrayal for kiddies until Annie changes him, of course. Jamie Foxx displays his talent at schpritzing too freely but otherwise seems to sleepwalk through this role.
Cameron Diaz' slovenly Miss Hannigan, however, is wonderful, verging on a delusional, almost Baby Jane-like characterization. Rose Byrne, as Foxx's assistant Grace, is also a stand-out.
The Strousse/Charnin songs are, however, delivered expertly and there are some clever directoral flourishes in this film, not to mention a solid new song by Sia. The big box-office question will be how this film, selling largely off its franchise name, will appeal to today's very young audiences.
And, arf! Where is Punjab when we need him?