ANNIE: Starring Quvenzhane Wallis, Cameron Diaz, Jamie Foxx, Rose Byrne, Bobby Canavale. Directed by Will Gluck. Rated PG (Mild themes) 118 minutes.
By Joseph McAleer
THE you-know-what will come out tomorrow, bet your bottom dollar, in Annie. It’s an exuberant adaptation of the 1977 Broadway musical – which previously became a 1982 film – about the little orphan with big dreams.
All of the hummable songs, and a few new ones, are showcased in lavish production numbers, including the aforementioned Tomorrow and It’s the Hard-Knock Life.
Purists may quibble at radical departures from the original story, based on the comic strip by Harold Gray, but no matter.
Annie remains a fun and wholesome movie for all ages with positive messages about love, family and forgiveness.
Director Will Gluck, who co-wrote the screenplay with Aline Brosh McKenna, presents a thoroughly modern Annie (Quvenzhane Wallis).
Gone is the 1930s Depression-era setting, the cameo by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and even the star’s signature curly red hair.
Instead, we’re plunged into the hurly-burly of present-day Manhattan.
Annie, no longer an orphan but a foster child, lives with four other girls in the home of Miss Hannigan (Cameron Diaz).
As a temporary guardian, Miss Hannigan remains a wicked, drunken mess. But this time, she is at least offered a shot at redemption.
Annie is spunky and street-smart.
Every week she sits outside the Domani Restaurant, hoping for a glimpse of her real parents, who had their first date there.
“We all have families somewhere,” Annie reassures her friends, never losing hope in a miracle.
Her guardian angel arrives in an unlikely form: Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks, who in this version has morphed into Will Stacks (Jamie Foxx).
The gruff billionaire owner of a cellphone company, Stacks has lofty ambitions of running for mayor.
But first his assistant Grace (Rose Byrne) and wily campaign advisor Guy (Bobby Cannavale) think Stacks needs to soften his image.
What better way than to become a foster parent?
With her dog Sandy (this time, named after the hurricane), in tow, wide-eyed Annie moves into Stacks’ to-die-for high-rise apartment.
The fun begins as she casts a spell on her new benefactor, and vice versa.
Filmed on location, Annie is a picturesque valentine to the Big Apple, which has never looked better.
As their kids sing along, keen-eyed parents will spot a number of nods to the original source material, such as the name of the band in one key scene: The Leaping Lizards.
The film contains a couple of crass terms and fleeting mature references.
Some material may not be suitable for children.
Joseph McAleer is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.