Annie (2014) Blu-ray Review

I’ve got an idea for a film. It’s going to be about a man whose last name is Schindler and it will follow him as he does his grocery shopping. And even though there won’t be any Nazis, Jews or even a hint of World War II, I’m going to call it SCHINDLER’S LIST. I’m being facetious, of course. I mean, who would just take a popular character from a film, forget everything else about said film, and release it with the same title? Why, the producers of the new ANNIE, for one.

Some history for the readers. “Annie,” the musical, hit Broadway in 1977. The show was nominated for (11) Tony Awards, winning six, including Best Musical. I first saw the show during the 1980 National Tour in Kansas City, which featured the original Daddy Warbucks, Reid Shelton. In 1982, director John Huston brought a fairly faithful adaptation to the big screen. In the early 1990s I attended a workshop in New York City for a proposed “Annie 2.” The show was revived on Broadway in 2012 and I’m looking forward to seeing it again this summer when the touring production again hits KC. Hopefully it will the “Annie” I remember. The ANNIE I’m about to review isn’t.

Annie (2014)

We first meet Annie (Wallis) at school, giving an essay before the class. Instead of reading it, she has the class stomp and make noise, which made me wonder if I had accidentally put in the disc for FAME instead. We then follow the tyke as she parks outside of an Italian restaurant, which we learn she does every Friday night. It seems that Annie is an orphan (my apologies, more on that later) and lives in a group home with five other girls. The home is run by Ms. Hannigan (Diaz). The fact that she lets Annie stay out until the middle of the night every Friday gives you an idea of how well Ms. Hannigan runs the home. She is a bitter woman, upset with the fact that she was kicked out of the group C&C Music Factory just before they hit it big. Across town (New York City) we meet billionaire Will Stacks (Foxx), who is currently lagging behind in the polls as he runs for Mayor. One day, Stacks happens to pull Annie out of the path of a speeding van. This act is captured on film and the businessman climbs in the polls. When he becomes Annie’s temporary foster parent he climbs even higher. What if he could find Annie’s parents? Why, the election would be in the bag.

Annie (2014)

Where do I start? If you’re going to call the film ANNIE, use the songs that made the musical popular. The first hint that things would go bad came during the “It’s A Hard Knock Life” number, when the line, “no one cares for you a smidge, when you’re in an orphanage” was changed to “when you are a foster kid.” Apparently it’s no longer p/c to be an orphan. Secondly, the producers have taken the titles of some of the songs from the show and written new lyrics, none of which really fit the original song. Third, with the exception of Jamie Foxx, nobody can sing. Wallis tries hard, and I give her some slack because she’s just a child. Diaz has to be the worse singer in a major musical since Jack Nicholson showed his pipes in TOMMY. I love Cameron Diaz as an actress and it kills me to write that last sentence but….jeesh! And rather than sing the show-stopping “Tomorrow” at a gala where it’s obvious it should have been sung, Annie sings it to herself sitting in an alley.

All of the plot points are hit – Annie hits it off with Stacks secretary (Rose Byrne), Hannigan plots to have Annie’s real parents show up – but they just don’t resonate like they should. Everything here is over the top, bright and loud. “Annie” the musical was a show set in the 1930s. Sticking the same situation into modern day, with the technology available today, takes any believability in the story out of the picture. Sometimes, things (and films) are best left alone!

BLU-RAY REVIEW

Video: Presented in its original 2:39.1 aspect ratio, the film transfer is well done. The film is heavy on “bright” and it shows on the disc.

Audio: The English soundtrack is available in both DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and Dolby Digital 2.0. Both sound fine. The film is well mixed and the musical numbers are well presented.

Audio Commentary: Director Will Gluck gives a very in-depth commentary, pointing out casting notes, cameos and how he wanted to pay tribute to the original.

Deleted Song (2:35): The soft “Something Was Missing,” performed beautifully by Foxx. This song alone would have shown Stacks’ true affection for Annie. Why it was cut is incomprehensible.

Blooper Reel (3:27): Yes, little kids are hard to control.

Sing Alongs (14:25): Yes, you too can sing along to (5) songs from the film.

A Day on the Set with Quvenzhane (6:22): Spend the day with Annie herself as she rehearses, puts on make-up and goes to school.

It’s a Hard Knock Camp: Auditions and Training (11:22): Following the kids cast in the film as they audition, train and bond.

Fun with Sandy (2:20): A few minutes with the film’s canine star.

Moonquake Lake, On Set! (11:21): In the film Annie and her friends attend the premiere of a film called “Moonquake Lake,” a “Twilight” parody starring Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis. This featurette is presented as a bit from a Canadian “Entertainment Tonight”-type show and features interviews with filmmakers Chris Miller and Phil Lord, the guys behind “The Lego Movie” and other films. This featurette was so funny I would have rather watched “Moonquake Lake” than “Annie.”

The Making of “Annie” (14:33): A self-congratulatory piece showcasing how the filmmakers updated the story and made a terrible film (my words, not theirs).

“You’re Never Fully Dressed without a Smile” Music Video (3:26)
“Tomorrow” Around the World Music Video (2:32): The show’s biggest song showcased in different languages.
“Annie” Trivia Track: You can allow facts about the film, cast, etc to pop up on screen during the film.
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