Hollywood seems to be on something of a reboot kick lately; it seems for every new movie that they release, they also release a rehashed version of a movie that was popular 20 years ago. Perhaps this always happens and we’ve just hit the timing where the movies that I grew up with are now ripe for a fresh take. If so, I think that means that I’m old. Oddly, many of the films that have recently received the reboot treatment are films that I missed the first time around. I have never seen the original Red Dawn, Robocop or Total Recall, so my interest in their updated versions has been tepid at best.
I did see Annie, however, so when I heard that Will Smith had it in his head to remake the film I was a little skeptical. A lot of that concern originated from the alleged original plan of Willow Smith (daughter of Will and his wife Jada) plating the title role; that smacked to me as pure nepotism and I wasn’t convinced that a girl best known for one annoying single (“Whip My Hair”) was the best choice to star in the beloved musical. Whether Willow simply aged out of the project because it took so long to be developed or Will had second thoughts after a less than well received project with his son Jaden (the abysmal After Earth), I was relieved when the role of Annie was filled by Quvenzhané Wallis. Wallis, the youngest person ever nominated for an Academy Award, proved that she had acting chops in Beasts of the Southern Wild; I didn’t particularly dig that movie, but I thought she was quite good in it and that she had a real screen presence. Whether she could actually sing was yet to be determined, but the Annie reboot now seemed like less of a vanity project and more like a legitimate movie. While I don’t like Jamie Foxx personally, I can’t argue that he was kind of perfect for the new version of Daddy Warbucks. I found the casting of Cameron Diaz as Miss Hannigan a little curious, but my affinity for Carol Burnett meant that whoever was cast in that role was going to be less than ideal in my eyes. With Jay Z on board as a producer, my main emotion related to this reboot was curiosity – how exactly was this all going to come together and what changes were they going to make to update the story for a new generation.
We got out first clues as to what the 2014 Annie will look like with the release of the first trailer for the film.
The most obvious change is that the character of Daddy Warbucks has been changed to Benjamin Stacks. Stacks’ interest in Annie is now about furthering his political career. There are clips of some familiar songs in the trailer, so at a minimum it appears that “A Hard Knock Life” will be included in the film (not unspringing, given Mr. Carter’s history with the song). The orphans have nice clothes than in the original film, but Miss Hannigan appears to still be pretty terrible (though I will be interested to see if they tone down her affinity for booze). I’m skeptical that the character of Punjab will be in the film, at least as originally depicted, since that characterization probably wouldn’t fly with today’s audiences and political climate. I’m also not sure how they could include Rooster in this new story line as originally conceptualized; he may still be in the movie, but I’m guessing he’ll no longer be Miss Hannigan’s brother. Changing the racial makeup of the film doesn’t have much impact other than on that particular storyline. It’s not impossible, but it’s a tougher sell to some segments of the population that the brother of Cameron Diaz is also the father of Quvenzhané Wallis.
My gut reaction after watching the trailer is that this film might not be terrible; I’m not sure that I’ll be running out to see it immediately, but I think it will be a respectable take on the original story. I don’t think that this will be a critical smash, but the 1982 film wasn’t either – it was met with mixed reviews at best. I haven’t seen the 1982 version of Annie since I was a kid and I have no idea how it holds up. My guess is that I wouldn’t think it was all that great and that it is only nostalgia that would gloss over its faults. I’ll be interested to see how a new generation of kids feels about this update; if nothing else, I’m just glad to see Quvenzhané Wallis get more work. The trailer, at the very least, gives me hope that this was a good career choice for her.
Annie will be released Christmas 2014.