MOVIE REVIEW: ‘Annie’ May Be The Worst Film Of The Year


Film: Annie
Starring: Quvenzhané Wallis, Jamie Foxx
Directed by: Will Gluck

In a year riddled with horrible misfires and unnecessary sequels, it’s a little shocking that the worst film of all is a remake of a musical that has long been thought to be timeless.

Will Gluck has delivered the updated version of Annie no one asked for and very few thought would ever exist. It’s a tech-friendly, modern retelling of a story that never comes together quite as well as its predecessor. The songs are weak, the acting is atrocious, and there is rarely a single sequence that offers anything audiences typically look for when seeing a musical on the big screen. There are no huge dance scenes, nor memorable hooks. It’s just a mess, and it looks like someone spent a lot of money to make it a reality.

The basic premise of Annie remains in tact: Annie, an orphan living with a mean foster mom and several foster sisters, sees her life change overnight when a business tycoon and current NYC mayoral candidate, Will Stacks, offers to take her in. It’s a thinly-veiled campaign move, which is only made possible by Stacks’ team of assistants, but it’s enough to give Annie hope that her days of wishing she had a family were finally behind her. Of course, that isn’t really the case, and before long Annie finds herself once again being tricked by adults for their own personal gains.

Quvenzhane Wallis, best know for her role in Beasts Of The Southern Wild, takes on the lead role with little-to-no singing ability and next to zero charisma. She seems as lost in the film as Annie does in the world of wealthy people, and though that confusion may come across as charming at first it quickly turns to disappointment. It’s bad enough that the producers had to use an obnoxious amount of vocoder to help Wallis sing in tune, but by removing 90% of the dance elements from the original show, Wallis also has very little to do with her physical self for a good portion of the film’s runtime. We see Annie hanging out on her bed, roaming the streets of New York, attempting to cook, and slowly winning over the heart of everyone, but she doesn’t really sing or dance. For a musical, especially one where she is supposedly the main character, this all makes for a very uninteresting viewing experience.

It’s not all Wallis’ fault; however, very few members of the supporting cast bring anything to the table themselves. Cameron Diaz, filling in as the mean foster mother, overacts to the point you almost expect her to pull off her face and reveal that Nicholas Cage is actually playing her role. Likewise, Bobby Cannavale does not know how to be a villain, especially in a children’s film, and his attempts at seeming ‘evil’ come across far more comical than intended. We also cannot forget the great Rose Byrne who, in a surprising turn of events, feels unusually restrained in her turn as Stacks’ go-to assistant.

The one good thing in Annie is Jamie Foxx, and even he falls short of his usual glory. The character of Stacks has been manipulated to be a bit more modern, yet still clueless when it comes to children. This is made hard to believe by the fact Stacks owns a giant cell phone company, which almost assuredly pushes their product to the youth of America, but as soon as he’s one on one with little Annie his understanding oh how to interact with anyone under five feet tall goes right out the window. Even his big song, the wonderful “The City’s Yours,” has been digitally tweaked to the point it has lost all heart. It comes and goes just as forgettably as the rest of the songs, except for perhaps “Tomorrow,” but even that doesn’t hit the high notes you might expect.

Speaking of the music and the way it’s handled in the film: I’m not sure Will Gluck has ever actually seen a musical. His universe is one where Katy Perry exists (she tweets about her love of Annie), as well as the ability to track a person’s whereabouts through social media in real time while flying a helicopter through New York City, but whenever people start to sing or dance everyone else in the room remains motionless. There is one instance in the first rendition of “Tomorrow” where everyone on screen is singing and/or dancing, but the rest of the film is filled with sequences where people do one or the other, and anyone standing by watching simply remains still. It’s a surprisingly dull way to capture a movie that is supposed to ride high on a wave of hope, and it never ceases to be at least a little bit awkward. How many musicals can you name where two characters start singing and dancing in a room surrounded by people, yet no one else joins them in any way? The bystanders in the film might as well be the audience in the theater, and by that I mean they’re so removed from what the main characters are doing their presence matters very little to the central narrative. This has never been the case in musicals before, especially those that feature songs sang in public places, but Gluck apparently thought it was time to try something different. It did not work, but hey, at least he tried (I guess).

Between the wasted talent of the cast, the horrible remixes of songs long-proven to be great in original form, and a complete lack of understanding as to how musicals should be presented on the big screen, Annie is a strong contender for the worst film of the year and, quite possibly, the worst musical of all time. It’s a complete mess from beginning to end, lacking all heart and doing very little to keep the audience engaged. I never thought the world needed to see Annie brought to life again, but now I’m convinced it’s a story best left for the Broadway state and the home video collections of people who like old movies. Annie is not a story that today’s youth can relate to, and it’s definitely not one they – or anyone else – needs in their life. Don’t waste your money on this disaster. Act like it never existed and move on. You’ll be better off.


Review written by James Shotwell

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the founder of Under The Gun Review. He loves writing about music and movies almost as much as he loves his two fat cats. He's also the co-founder of Antique Records and the Marketing Coordinator for Haulix. You should probably follow him on Twitter.

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  • Brian Lion

    “Bobby Cannavale does not know how to be a villain…”

    Have you not watched season 3 of Boardwalk Empire?