The latest screen version of Annie – the fourth – has been taking quite a bashing from the US reviewers but doesn't seem markedly worse than any of its predecessors, or indeed than the original (and very sappy) musical itself. It's a film that you expect to come smothered in industrial amounts of schmaltz.
Frizzy-haired child star Quvenzhané Wallis, the new Annie, is certainly a long way removed from the Louisiana swamps of her breakthrough movie, Beasts of the Southern Wild. Here, she is a foster kid living in Harlem under the control of the embittered, hard-boozing Colleen (Cameron Diaz in a pink angora sweater). Jaime Foxx is Will Stacks, the telecoms tycoon and New York mayoral candidate who rescues her from an oncoming truck – and then decides, on the advice of his spin-doctor sidekick Guy (Bobby Cannavale), that she might be an asset in his election campaign.
The director Will Gluck is shamelessly manipulative. Alongside little poppet Annie (who always dresses in pink or purple and speaks in a glorified gurgle), there's a big-eyed dog that seems to be on leave from an Andrex ad. The songs and dances aren't performed with a huge amount of conviction but you can't help but admire the real estate on display – in particular, the hi-tech apartment atop the city in which Stacks lives. Cannavale enjoys himself as the villain. As for the gloopy sentimentality, that has always been an essential part of Annie's DNA. You couldn't make a film about her without it.
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