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I Think I'm Gonna' Like It Here (Sorry)
By Colleen Foster
There are myriad reasons this newest reboot of Annie should make me break out in hives.
First of all, my Broadway roots predispose me to resistance. As a former musical theater performer and still enthusiast, I’ve been conditioned by the community to be rubbed the wrong way by the plucky little orphan. After a few too many shrieked renditions of “Tomorrow” in audition rooms, she’s become a bit of a persona non grata. Which is a shame, because the original 1977 score, with music by Charles Strouse and lyrics by Martin Charnin, rarely gets the praise it deserves.
Second, each actor has been Auto-Tuned to within an inch of their audio life. We’re going to assume that no one was cast without some proven ability to vocalize in a somewhat harmonious way, but showbiz being what it is, the jury’s still out. The whole thing could have been recorded in spoken word and then had pitch injected with a few spun dials. The days of Marnie Nixon saving starlets’ nonmusical asses in The King and I, West Side Story, and My Fair Lady are long gone. For better or worse, it’s amazing what you can do with recording technology nowadays.
Thirdly...oh hell, let’s just stop there. I admit it, let the nonplussed reviewers and 4.9 stars on IMDB skewer me: Annie was a guilty pleasure.
Based on the show that opened on Broadway in 1977, the movie opened on December 19 following all the months of heavy publicity you’d expect from something produced by Will Smith, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Jay-Z. The rags-to-riches tale of a Great Depression orphan taken in by a wealthy billionaire has been converted to a modern-day (Great Recession?) spin where a street-savvy foster child becomes a campaign stunt for a New York City mayoral candidate. And like the original Daddy Warbucks ending up wrapped around Annie’s little finger, this new Annie (Quvenzhané Wallis) wins over Benjamin Stacks (Jamie Foxx).
No one’s acting leaves us staggering, but for the fluffy fairy tale it is, that’s not entirely necessary. We didn’t order Oscar salad off the menú. Like the bubbles bouncing on digital wall panels in Stacks’s almost-futuristic penthouse (which sometimes bordered on The Jetsons), the film is given a shimmery buoyancy by its musical numbers.
Right when you’re about to write it off as the empty-calorie entertainment that it, well, is, another vamp starts up. With the swishes and swooshes of cleaning Hannigan’s (Cameron Diaz) digs, “Hard-Knock Life” pulls you in against your will. Besides a hilarious but clumsy insertion of a show-within-a-show, even the brand-new songs by Sia work. (“Who Am I?”, the soul-searching multi-person ballad that takes place right after Annie’s money-grubbing fake “parents” whisk her away, is particularly strong. Bordering on moving.)
The film gave me no choice but to fall for it. It’s not worth shelling out $12 for a second helping ticket, nor does it do faithful justice to the original material in the way that the 1999 Walt Disney Broadcast did.
But we can put our elitist attitudes aside for two hours and let ourselves enjoy it for what it is. The sun’ll still come out tomorrow.
#Real #Annie #WillGluck #Broadway #Musicals #WillSmith #JadaPinkettSmith #DaddyWarbucks #QuvenzhaneWallis
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