Film review: Annie (PG)

Annie: Annie (QUVENZHANE WALLIS) and Sandy.
Annie: Annie (QUVENZHANE WALLIS) and Sandy.
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Little foster child Annie still has magic

Adapted from the popular Broadway musical, the 1982 film version of Annie is firmly engrained in many rose-tinted childhood memories.

The uplifting story of a flame-haired orphan girl who overcomes insurmountable odds to win the heart of a billionaire businessman taps into our deep-rooted sense of belonging.

Infectious music and lyrics by Charles Strouse and Martin Charnin have reverberated throughout popular culture from episodes of 30 Rock, Glee and South Park to a sample on rapper Jay-Z’s 1998 single Hard Knock Life.

Will Gluck’s glossy modern remake retains most of the original songbook with a couple of new soaring ballads.

Some of the updates don’t quite work: changing Annie’s residence from an orphanage to a foster home significantly reduces the number of children in care for one of the big song and dance numbers.

Also Carol Burnett’s ferocious portrayal of Miss Hannigan has been softened so Cameron Diaz retains a glimmer of likeability, even when she’s drunkenly snarling, “You think the world wants a smart-mouthed little girl?”.

On the whole, Gluck’s reworking possesses the same wholesome likeability including a winning title performance from Quvenzhane Wallis, who was Oscar nominated for Beasts Of The Southern Wild.

Annie (Wallis) lives in Harlem in the dubious care of embittered, alcoholic, faded pop star Colleen Hannigan (Diaz) with four other girls: Tessie (Zoe Margaret Colletti), Mia (Nicolette Pierini), Isabella (Eden Duncan-Smith) and Pepper (Amanda Troya).

Eternally cheerful and optimistic, Annie believes her real parents will return for her and every Friday, she sits outside the Italian restaurant where her folks left her aged four with a note.

During one of her regular jaunts around the city, Annie is rescued from the path of a truck by mobile phone company billionaire Will Stacks (Jamie Foxx), who is running for mayor.

The footage goes viral and boosts Will’s approval ratings.

Election advisor Guy (Bobby Cannavale), who masterminded campaigns for Arnold Schwarzenegger and Kim Jong-Il, suggests that Will temporarily adopts Annie.

Will agrees and welcomes Annie into his high-tech penthouse, where she befriends the mogul’s trusty assistant Grace (Rose Byrne).

Over time, Annie opens Will’s heart but just when he is poised to consider adopting her forever, her real parents (Tracie Thoms, Dorian Missick) reappear.

Annie lacks some of the rough charm of the 1982 film but director Gluck and his team add enough contemporary spit and polish without obscuring the story’s emotional arc.

Cast lip-sync convincingly and the big numbers are slickly choreographed including a heartfelt rendition of Tomorrow from Wallis on the city streets.

An extended sequence at the premiere of a fantasy film called Moon Quake Lake - featuring wink-wink cameos from Ashton Kutcher, Mila Kunis and Rihanna - is rather cute.

This version of Annie has an ample sprinkling of that lustre dust.

Star rating: 6/10

Released December 20