'Annie': What the Critics Are Saying
Quvenzhane Wallis, Jamie Foxx, Cameron Diaz, Rose Byrne and Bobby Cannavale star in Will Gluck's reboot of the musical
Annie, out Friday, has Quvenzhane Wallis singing and dancing alongside Jamie Foxx, Cameron Diaz, Rose Byrne and Bobby Cannavale. Will Gluck's reboot of the Broadway musical, which John Huston had brought to the big screen in 1982, also lists Jay Z, Will and Jada Pinkett Smith as producers.
Read what top critics are saying about Annie:
The Hollywood Reporter's David Rooney calls it a "misconceived contemporary update" that's "directed with a stunning lack of musicality. ... All but a handful of the existing songs have been shredded, often retaining just a signature line or two and drowning it in desperately hip polyrhythmic sounds, aurally assaultive arrangements and inane new lyrics. The original songs, by Sia, Greg Kurstin and Gluck, are forgettable synthetic riffs that recall those boring filler tracks you skipped over on old Justin Timberlake albums." Altogether, "Every ounce of charm has been pulverized out of the musical in a strained effort to drag it into the social-media age. ... Putting aside the grating performances, the clumsy direction, the visual ugliness and the haphazard development of story, character and relationships, the movie is hobbled by its intrinsic unsuitability for contemporary retelling."
Of the cast, Wallis is "reduced to one-note, processed pluckiness," and "Foxx escapes most unscathed, despite having to do more spit-takes than Danny Thomas. He's also the only one of the principals who can actually sing, though on his solo, 'The City's Yours' (a distinctly minor addition to the canon of Big Apple anthems), he goes for an embarrassing sexy-soul-daddy sound that's out of character. Even in a movie Auto-Tuned to within an inch of its life, Wallis clearly is no singer. And Byrne, who can usually be relied upon to add some sparkle, is as wan here as her feeble vocals."
The New York Times' A. O. Scott says it's a "hacky, borderline-incompetent production" — the story has been "reduced to a chaotic shambles" and "flees from any implication of historical or social relevance" the way previous versions didn't. Regarding the music, "the way these and other numbers are arranged, choreographed and edited undermines their effectiveness. ... The voices sound thin and flat. The mouths don’t move in time with the music. The dancing is a chaotic stew of flailing limbs. Numbers that are supposed to lift you out of the story into a realm of giddy wonder and pure feeling have the opposite effect." Of the cast, "Wallis works hard to bring this reboot to life. So do Foxx, Byrne, Cannavale and, especially, Diaz, who flings herself into the role of Miss Hannigan, Annie’s boozy, blowzy meanie of a foster mom, with almost frightening abandon."
Los Angeles Times' Betsy Sharkey notes it as "truly depressing" as "cynicism lurks around every corner, hides behind nearly every smile and overtakes the story. ... Even the musical numbers feel flat, especially the new ones that seem tossed in for no reason other than to make the Billboard pop charts. ... Not many other performances in the movie are worth mentioning, except Stephanie Kurtzuba as Annie's weary social services caseworker. The actress is the only one who seems to understand the difference between cynicism and satire."
The Washington Post's Stephanie Merry highlights that "the title character in Gluck’s funny, but uneven and overlong, update of the musical isn’t just cute and sweet — that’s not what we want in our protagonists anymore. She’s cute and sweet and scrappy and droll." The film, "with its Auto-Tuned songs, references to memes, depictions of flashy technology and jokes about cellphone companies spying on customers," gives "some very funny moments in the movie, even for grown-ups, ... but ultimately, Annie is so fixated on being current that it will never be more than a passing fancy.
USA Today's Claudia Puig gives it two out of four stars. "The retooled Broadway classic has been superficially updated, but not at all improved. Wallis is adorably plucky as the lead in Annie. She and Foxx as the newfangled Daddy Warbucks character have an appealing chemistry and their songs together are the best moments in the movie. But the rest of Annie is banal, shallow and markedly cynical. ... [It] drowns out the character's unflagging optimism with a disposable auto-tuned soundtrack and an off-putting blend of cynicism and schmaltz."