A history-making Oscar nominee makes her movie musical debut this month.
Early in my TV career, I interviewed a sitcom actress who was one of the many dancers in the movie version of Annie. Off-camera, I asked her what it was like to work with John Huston. He was older then and not in tip-top health. She said that he needed a breathing apparatus on set, he was pretty much chair-bound as he worked, and he looked and sounded like he did in the movie Chinatown as he directed a big budget musical comedy. She said that the sight of him "scared some of the kids."
Is this new Annie as good a musical as the best of Fred Astaire and Judy Garland in Hollywood's Golden Era? Is it great like Singin' in the Rain, An American in Paris, The King and I, West Side Story, Funny Girl, The Sound of Music or Disney's Mary Poppins? No. Is it entertaining? Yes. This new Annie works well for a parent or parents with kids 12 years of age and younger who seek entertainment for weekend family time.
It's easy on the eye thanks to some lovely production design. The songs retained from the original Broadway musical are reinterpreted in an imaginative way for today's pop beat and there's the lead actress -- Miss Wallis. She sings well, she handles the choreography smoothly and she is absolutely charming. She's not a precocious kid character -- the kind we see way too often, the kind of kid who's smarter than the grown-ups and acts more like an adult midget than a regular kid. Wallis is truly charismatic and lovable. She gives Annie what the audience needs to feel. She makes you wish Annie was in your family and you can't believe that someone has not already adopted her.
Jamie Foxx is the Daddy Warbucks type. He plays Will Stacks, a multi-millionaire bachelor who'd like to be Mayor of New York City. Annie softens the career-driven millionaire's heart.
I read some snarky reviews of the movie. To be honest, I was fully prepared to hate it. Now I'd rather see this Annie again than sit through Ridley Scott's Prometheus a second time. Or Horrible Bosses 2.
This is for the working parents or single parent with kids 12 years of age and younger who want to take the kids to a safe, fun movie for some weekend family entertainment. It's pleasant pink cotton candy movie entertainment that little girls may enjoy -- especially if they show an interest in the performing arts.
This Annie embraces racial diversity in New York City and in relationships. As for the snarky reviews -- for those guys in their 30s to those of baby boomer age like I am, how many times have you seen a big studio release in which the sophisticated and rich lead male character in New York City was played by a black actor and his leading lady was a black actress? To some critics, that fact may not be significant. To me, it is.
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