STREET SMART: Foxx and Wallis (both centre) lead the cast in this scene from the rebooted musical.
With this month's Annie comes the vivid reminder that retooling a classic ― a beloved musical at that ― can mean a daunting challenge for even the most stridently committed filmmaker eager to do justice to the legacy of the original. Working a fine group of actors, director Will Gluck proves he's game for anything. While it's no Chicago (the film occasionally shows its stitching) This Annie is a hip, hugely entertaining version for the Instagram generation. Thankfully, it retains much of the exuberance of the original.
And it all rests on the (capable) ten-year-old shoulders of Oscar nominee Quvenzhané Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild), ideally cast as the precocious foster kid who, while sharing a home with about five other tween girls, years to reunite with the biological parents who abandoned her as a babe, leaving behind a note and a promise that they'll return for her.
Always ready with a song whose lyrics transport us ever deeper into her fragile world, the smart curly-haired, wide-eyed girl finds instead a dream home and a brand-new lease on life when she has a chance encounter in the street with a high-powered mobile-phone tycoon (Jamie Foxx as billionaire and mayoral candidate William Stacks).
Wallis and Foxx (reconnecting with his comedy roots) share a spark-filled rapport that draws you into the intricate web being woven as they gradually transform each other's lives with invalubale lessons. As for the movie itself, it's utterly moving in its dramatic moments and unendingly fun in its more comedic ones. Annie is a popular children's musical, boasting successful TV and stage adaptations, and its catchy, tuneful numbers like "It's A Hard Knock Life" and "I Think I'm Gonna Like It Here" get appealing new interprettaions fuelled by the irrepressible zest of the young performers, in particular.
Gluck wins strong performances from all the actors - even Cameron Diaz who is woefully miscast as Annie's monstrous foster mother Coleen Hannigan, a flirtatious has-been who still has stars in her eyes. Playing Stacks' campaign team leaders, Rose Byrne (TV's Damages) and Broadway vet Bobby Cannavale, known for intensely captivating roles, show that even they, too, are not averse to tackling the lighthearted stuff every once in a while - and having a jolly swell time. Tyrone's Verdict: B