A curly red-haired girl stands in front of her class, and her name is Annie – but she steps aside to let another girl, also called Annie (Wallis), come forward, and so this knowing reboot of the classic kids musical begins. Based on a comic strip that then became a Broadway musical (and later the 1982 Albert Finney-starring film), it is, of course, the story of Little Orphan Annie, the young, sparky kid living in a group home who is taken in by a gruff millionaire who eventually grows to love her. Awww.
While the stage show and movie were both set during the Depression in 1933, we’re now in the present day and Annie doesn’t live in a grim orphanage – she’s a foster kid living with a few other girls and the boozy, deluded Colleen Hannigan (Diaz, going for full-on hamminess), who insists she was once a member of pop band C+C Music Factory (they fired her for being too good). Hannigan isn’t very nice but she’s not that awful, but Annie still hopes that her parents, who abandoned her outside a restaurant, will one day come and claim her. Instead, racing through the streets one day she runs straight into billionaire Will Stacks (Foxx), a mayoral candidate needing to boost his image. His sleazy advisor Guy (Bobby Cannavale) suggests that looking after Annie could be just the PR advantage Stacks needs, so the little girl and her dog are soon living in his swish penthouse under the watchful eye of Stacks’ assistant Grace (Rose Byrne).
While some of the classic songs (‘Tomorrow’, ‘It’s A Hard Knock Life’) remain, they have been given 21st century twists while new songs have also been added to the poppy soundtrack. In fact, everything has had a modern day update as Annie gets taken to a sci-fi movie premiere, pictures of her are tweeted to boost Stacks’ campaign, and a chase scene at the end utilises a helicopter and mobile phones.
It’s all very flashy and superficial, and would have no heart at all if it weren’t for the cute performances from Foxx and Wallis. The two of them, and some bright, bouncy moments, will entertain and delight the tween-age girls it’s aimed at, but this unnecessary update probably won’t be much fun for anyone else.
Is Annie (2014) suitable for kids? Here are our parents’ notes...