Unless you’re looking for something truly memorable or at all exceptional, Annie should probably meet most of your expectations. It is a simplistic, happy fable, one that misrepresents poverty while normalizing wealth and materialism gleefully and without thought. It is utterly full of shit but generates small doses of charm anyway.
You know the story. Annie is a precocious, smart-ass little orphan kid who dreams of someday meeting the parents who abandoned her years ago. That’s not going to happen (they abandoned her for a reason, apparently), but if she keeps her spirit up, she might bring together a new family. If she’s extra cute, that new family might even be worth billions, which goes a long way toward speeding up the adoption process.
Luckily, Annie is super cute, or the movie thinks she is, anyway. By staying upbeat and answering every question with a witty retort, she has a good chance of worming her way into the heart of germaphobic, workaholic Will Stacks, invented of Stacks phones, some of the ugliest smart phones I have ever seen.
Kids watching Annie might find a lot to like in Quvenzhané Wallis’ version of the character, but most of the enjoyment I got from the film came from its adult cast. Jamie Foxx doesn’t have much to work with, but it’s hard not to like him as his cold heart melts in the face of Annie’s bad cooking and obnoxious singing voice. Cameron Diaz is a lot of fun as the grumpy but not all that evil fleabag foster parent, Hannigan. Adele Akinnuoye-Agbaje is actually kind of sweet as Stacks’ limo driver. My favorite guy is David Zayas as a blue-collar fella who constantly tries to woo Hannigan even though she clearly has VD red flags all over the place.
I mentioned Wallis’ awful singing voice because it literally hurt my ears. I don’t know if it’s her or the speakers I heard her through, but it was certainly something I frequently noticed because she sings a lot. No one really sounds that great. Foxx feels like he’s been autotuned, and Diaz, while putting a lot of energy into her performance, seems to say her songs more than sing them. The film contains a lot of songs Annie fans already know, but many of them sound completely different. The classics (“It's the Hard Knock Life” and “Tomorrow”) are well represented well enough, though.
This is the kind of movie you go to if you have kids and feel bad about the time you made them sit through The Expendables 3. Even if you’re open to Annie for its own sake, I highly doubt it’ll be a movie you remember as the days go by. Ultimately, that should make it easier for you to forgive your children.