She’s not an orphan in this latest version of her musical-comedy adventure: Annie is a foster kid. At least, the “It’s a Hard Knock Life” song substitutes “when you’re a foster kid” for “when you’re in an orphanage” in the lyrics… which are pretty much the only bits of the lyrics that are intelligible (other than “it’s a hard knock life”). There’s something very desperate and frenzied in this 21st-century updating of the story of the spunky little parentless girl who wins over a gazillionaire, and it’s not, oddly, anything to do with the economic echoes today of the original stage (and 1982 film) Annie’s Great Depression setting. It may be that director Will Gluck (Easy A) isn’t comfortable with the heightened artificiality of the musical as a genre: the song and dance numbers feel rushed and half done, as if we’re watching an early rehearsal that he’s still trying to figure out how to shoot. It makes for a curious energetic blandness, an inoffensiveness that is instantly forgettable. Still, Quvenzhané Wallis is a smart, resourceful, generous, adorable Annie, so much so that I never quite bought that Jamie Foxx (Horrible Bosses 2) as the new Daddy Warbucks — here, cell-phone magnate and New York City mayoral candidate Will Stacks — could be quite as grouchy around her as he is. And Cameron Diaz (Sex Tape) as Annie’s mean, alcoholic foster mother Miss Hannigan is a hoot. Pity the rest of the supporting cast, including Rose Byrne (Neighbors) as Stacks’ assistant and Bobby Cannavale (Chef) as his election manager, are left to merely tread comedic water.
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