Annie (2014)

(On Cable TV, November 2015) Will Gluck earned a spot on my list of interesting directors after Easy A and a good chunk of Friends with Benefits: He seems at ease with fast-paced films about young characters but doesn’t necessarily talk down to his audience.  Annie isn’t in the same league as Easy A, but it’s a competent kid’s film with an appealing heroine a good narrative rhythm.  Given that much of it is a straight-up musical, that’s no small achievement.  The story, now decades old, should be familiar: An orphan is temporarily adopted by a billionaire, who then discovers the true meaning of affection and—aw, who cares: We’re here for “It’s the hard-knock life” and “Tomorrow”.  Quvenzhané Wallis turns in a very good performance as the titular Annie –quietening those who may have thought that her breakthrough role in Beasts of the Southern Wild was a feral one-shot fluke, she sings, dances and makes for a perfectly likable protagonist.  Jamie Foxx also does well as a new-economy Daddy Warbucks (he makes cell phones), while Cameron Diaz adds another unsubtle bad-girl role to her repertoire.  The music numbers often fizz and pop (although some of them aren’t as energetic, and the last one can be distracting as background detail-spotters can watch the shadows on the fence-posts to figure out how long it took to shoot.), while the comedy bubbles up naturally.  Some of the dramatic beats are over-played, but there’s some nice cinematography at play here, especially in presenting a glorious one-percenter fantasy view of New York.  I’m not as wedded to previous versions of Annie as some may be, and I have a surprisingly high tolerance for movie characters bursting in song and dance, so your mileage will probably vary. 

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