Movie Review – Annie (2014)

If you were ever under the impression that I was not a musical theatre kid, or a Broadway movie kid, or a go-watch-every-kids-movie-in-theaters-possible kid, I’m sorry. You are sorely mistaken. You have been deceived. I am all of these things.

I wanted to go see this movie ever since the first trailer came out. Annie was one of my favorite musicals as a kid, especially growing up with a sister named Annie who also had super curly hair. Before this one, I’d seen at least three movie adaptations, I worked in the light booth for a live production, and by the end of that run, I could sing every song by heart.

There was a lot of people who were actually upset over the adaptation, though. And I don’t mean “theory people,” people who only exist in theory and everyone just assumes they exist. I mean real, actual people that I have spoken with. On Facebook, one of my friends was upset that “they were changing the whole story, it shouldn’t be modernized, why isn’t his name Daddy Warbucks?!” (I’m not kidding, that last one was part of their argument.) And then, of course, there was the Internet Dweebs who yelled how it wasn’t right for Annie to be black, because Annie has ALWAYS been a white, red headed girl with freckles.

Me, I’m just happy when a movie has a female lead that’s worth getting emotionally invested in. And I love seeing how directors and writers modernize old ideas. Plop a Broadway plot in there? Two tickets for the next showing, please.

Of course, now that I’ve built up how excited for this movie I was, you’re probably not going to believe me when I tell you that I’m very critical when it comes to movies. Especially if I see them with my boyfriend, Brandon. After we’re out of the movie, we’ll discuss acting, camera work, audio mixing, character development, the whole she-bang. Even if we like it, we’ll end up picking it apart.

We walked out of Annie completely stunned.

Not even five minutes into the film, Brandon leaned over to me and said “this is the best shot sequence I have seen in a really long time.” And through the movie, it continued to be the best camera work I’ve seen in a long time. Realistically, when you’re watching a movie, you should forget you’re watching it through the eyes of a camera lens. This is hard for me to do with most modern movies; the camera shakes, the swoops under and over and through things to remind you “we shot this in 3D, too, and YOU didn’t go see it!”, the amounts of cuts, the too-close close ups… all of the above were absent from Annie.

I was really impressed with the fact that it passed the Betchdel test in probably, say, less than fifteen minutes? For those of you who don’t know, the Betchdel test can only be passed if two women in a movie have a conversation, and that conversation is about something other than a man. (It happens less often than you think.) And through the movie, it continued to pass the test. Women conversed with other women freely, and without the need for it to be strictly about men.

The soundtrack has changed from that of the Broadway production; songs have been added, remixed, and re-worded to fit the modern era. “Easy Street” was different enough to throw me off while I was singing along, to the point that I wondered I was trying to sing the same song they were singing. (The answer, of course, was no; they were singing an updated version.)

I personally thought all the acting was great. I’ve heard people say they thought Cameron Diaz played the role of Miss Hanagan poorly; I think she played to the script she’d been given, and played it well. Miss Hanagan in this version was a has-been and wanna-be pop star who almost made it. Her character reminded me of Kesha’s stage persona if her stage persona had disconnected from her real personality altogether, had demanded her own record deal, and was tossed into the streets with no one to help her. Bitter, mourning for the old days, mostly always bitter, and trying to seduce every man that knocked on the door without giving up. And forced to foster children because she couldn’t find a better job.

The true star of the show was, of course, Quvenzhané Wallis, who played Annie herself. I had seen Quvenzhané before, in Beasts of the Southern Wild as Hushpuppy. (I didn’t know this until I IMDb’ed her, to be honest; I thought she was a newcomer to the film world.) And even though she blew me away in Southern Wild, especially considering her age at the time of shooting, she was ten times better in Annie. She was spunky, sassy, sweet, and most of all, believable. I find a lot of child actors to be talented, but there are moments I can tell that they’re just actors playing a role. Quvenzhané had none of that. You could tell me she lived the life of Annie through and through, and I would probably believe you without a second thought. On top of that, she had a great singing voice, and she totally nailed all the songs she sang.

The only thing that disappointed me about the movie was Sandy. In Annies before, Sandy the dog had been a somewhat key and iconic part of the movie/musical/what have you. Sandy’s involvement in the new Annie was negligible. She was seen on-screen only a handful of times, and had very little plot significance. I’m only upset about this because A) I love dogs, and B) the dog they picked to play Sandy was absolutely adorable.

All in all, I would go see this again. And again. And again. I would pay to see it every single time. Five out of five peppers for this one.

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