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Thursday
Mar062014

Yes, No, Maybe So: "Annie" and Kneejerk Musical Reactions

"How many 'Tomorrow's until Annie comes out?"
"293, kids!"

Quvenzhané Wallis stars as little orphan "Annie"

That means we just need to get through 294 days of internet hyperbole BEFORE ANYONE SEES IT about how the new Annie (the third filmed version after a 1982 feature and a 1999 telefilm) is the worst thing that ever existed and musicals suck and it's going to kill everyone's career... Give me strength! BUT in fairness to whatever social media hatred happened (I only saw a little but I'm assuming there was more since I wasn't online much last night) the new trailer which is embedded at the end of the post, does ring alarm bells.

Here's the thing. I realize that my own kneejerk defensiveness/love for any and all new musicals before I see them, is, in some ways exactly like the internet's kneejerk distrust/hatred of any and all new musicals before they see them. Both reactions have less basis in reality than in indoctrination. But the reason my indoctrination is superior (heh) is because its self-indoctrination - a connosieur's faith in his own taste and in the possibilites of the genre and not lazy long-since disproven cultural indoctrination that this genre is over or passé. I can blather about this peculiar problem for HOURS but I should probably spare you and we'll get back to "Annie".

After the jump we'll discuss the pros, cons, and "which column do I put this in" beats from the trailer. 

YES

 

  • Yay. Another big screen musical!
  • Sandy looks adorable and I appreciate a fresh take on Annie, casting-wise. It's been done for decades one way and it's in no way racially specific so why not?
  • It's impossible to know if Quvenzhané Wallis's miraculous childhood performance in Beasts of The Southern Wild is going to translate to actual talent but I'm willing to be optimistic. 
  • Adore the new title design because it understands that it's selling a classic property but gives it just a smidge of an update by way of Annie's new silhouette
  • The first minute of the trailer is rough... but it starts working better when the mood shifts to kick off "Tomorrow"
  • I saw the revival on Broadway a year or two ago and was surprised to be reminded that "Tomorrow" just scratches the surface. It has more than just one classic number so they have multiple opportunities to shine. 
  • Will Gluck directed Easy A and though that cast as a whole was uneven he surely knew what he was doing with Emma Stone, Patty Clarkson, and Stanley Tucci even if "what he was doing" was getting out of their way. So optimism that he'll know great work if any of these actors are doing any of it.
  • That was quite a convoluted "yes" entry --  I'm trying to stay optimistic! Because...

 

NO

 

  • YIKES! the trailer kicks off with Cameron Diaz barking her lines at her wards. I am no Diaz hater. In fact I usually think she's skilled at cartoonish comedy (MVP of those Charlie's Angels movies) but something looks horribly awry here, like first table-read coarse, no nuance or timing or anything worked out. She doesn't even seem drunk or [gulp] funny... both of which are musts for Miss Hannigan. 
  • And, for what it's worth, the star role in this musical has always been Miss Hannigan. If Cameron is bad the movie probably won't be able to function.
  • Can't we find anything better to do with Rose Byrne post-Bridesmaids? Cuz damn she was funny and perfect and inspired in that. Not that this is a terrible role, it's just... limited. It's the kind of part they give to actresses that are pretty enough and famous enough but that they don't otherwise know what to do with (if, of course the role is not going to an actual musical star like Ann Reinking in the '82 version. Sutton Foster would've been perfection in this role -- or the Miss Hannigan role for that matter -- if they'd given her a shot. I'm not sure why they felt they needed four "names" when "Annie" is already a brand.)
  • That millisecond shot of Rose and Q dancing on a rooftop looks  much closer to goofing off than choreography, which... NO! You're making a musical. Sell it. Sell it. Sell it. 
  • Though I appreciate that it doesn't pretend it's not a musical, this Annie also doesn't really project that it's a good one, suspiciously not showing any musical number for more than 1 or (max) 2 seconds. Not even "Tomorrow". Are they just so blandly staged that they couldn't find a way to make them an enticement in the trailer. I mean... 
  • YIKES! A closeup of a plate in "It's a Hard Knock Life" is the most emphatic visual beat they could find to highlight in that number? 

 

MAYBE SO

 

  • If Miss Hannigan doesn't work the only hope is that the chemistry between the little orphan and her benefactor, the once very literally named "Daddy Warbucks" who is now the more generically named "Will Stacks", could save it. I suspect -- based on this ridiculously slim evidence -- that the chemistry will be there.
  • "I don't like you in Harlem, why would I like you on Facebook?" - funny or obnoxious 'we've relocated this story to the present day!' pandering. I can't actually decide. 
  • It looks a little bit like a TV movie in visuals. WORRIED. But on the other hand I firmly believe that this is a poorly cut trailer. Consider that annoying and super generic pulsing fade to black thing at the "climax" which is used ad nauseum to sell horror movies and action flicks... but for a kid's musical. Wrong cutting tactic! 
  • Annie is not a "cool" musical. It's a family musical. Even if they do it justice a lot of it's probably going to be corny and fluffy and too sweet by half. 
  • I'm not at all confident that they're going to handle the socioeconomic disparity well but then I've never seen a version of Annie that knows how to deal with that problem of the text. The only way people deal with it is to dive in and celebrity obscene wealth and the fact that Annie essentially wins the lottery. But that part of it as always made me empathetic towards Miss Hannigan. She's not entirely wrong, you know. 

HERE'S THE TRAILER
I was so longwinded. I'm ready for your thoughts, the good the bad and the indifferent alike... 

 

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Reader Comments (37)

It almost seems too modern, for such a timeless story -- they should not have have pandered so much. Kids would like it just the same without a few hi-tech, modern references.

March 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBia

Maybe i'm just not the market for this movie because, ugh, NO. Plucky, precocious kids are just a big old no for me and I like kids. Not feeling the rendition of "Tomorrow" either.

But OMG, full trailer for Grace of Monaco is out!

*puts on tiara made of foil and faints*

March 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDerreck.

I am still gonna see it but this trailer is not good. Yikes on Cameron Diaz; does she want a Razzie? And I am still worried about Wallis' singing voice. That auto tune of "Tomorrow" does not give me confidence. I know auto tune is everything nowadays but it seems that it's being used to cover the actual singing voice instead of enhancing the effect of the singing voice.

Still hope for the best though cause I love little Q.

March 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDrew

I'm 100% NO. This looks terrible. I can already tell Cameron Diaz is Razzie worthy.

Review Grace of Monaco, pleeeeeease!

March 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSad man

It's not too late to replace Cameron Diaz with Scarlett Johansson.

March 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSan FranCinema

Not even on netflix or HBO.

March 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRachele

A big, fat NO based on this trailer. This looks terrible for everyone involved, including Emma Thompson. As bloated as it was, the John Huston adaptation at least had great performances, especially from Carol Burnett.

March 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRaul

I already have Facebook friends calling this the worst idea in the history of bad ideas, but as you've already stated, Nate, that's the standard reaction to every musical adaptation or remake. One commenter did bring up a point that I didn't originally consider, yet it did strike a chord with me, particularly in light of Lupita Nyong'o's Oscar victory -- the fact that the film might ultimately be a meaningful experience for little children of color, girls most specifically, beyond a fun, maybe negligible, possibly needless do over. To that end I say yes, but it's not something I'll see in the theater unless advanced word is good.

March 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTroy H.

give us grace review.

March 6, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterpete

lol omg Cam Diaz is teeeerrrible is this trailer. But I love her schtick so I'm reserving judgement for the final product. I'm not hating the trailer actually.

March 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterG.ShaQ

Yikes.

Rose Byrne was the only thing that didn't bother me about the trailer and that's probably because they showed her the least.

Le (deep breath) sigh.

March 6, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterthefilmjunkie

The horror! The horror!

March 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

At first I thought this was a terrible idea but hey it looks kind of cute

March 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJaragon

In defense of autotune: "Tomorrow" has become such a theater kid, full-belt cliche that trying a softer vocal take on the role actually makes a lot of sense to me. Let Annie be a kid for once instead of a comic strip or a beaming charm offensive. Wallis was applauded for her naturalism as much as her confidence.

March 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDave

Not sure about Cameron Diaz as Miss Hannigan, nor the vocals on the bit we heard from 'Tomorrow'. I'd be curious to watch it if only to see what they do with "Let's Go to the Movies".

March 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMario

"Annie is not a "cool" musical. It's a family musical. Even if they do it justice a lot of it's probably going to be corny and fluffy and too sweet by half."

THIS. A million times, this. Which means that the internet WILL hate it. Annie is far better a musical than it's reputation would have you believe, but any film version will, almost be definition, have to be a children's movie. And making a good children's movie is VERY difficult, as is making a good movie musical, which is why the degree of difficulty on this is sky-high.

For what it's worth, this trailer at the very least TOTALLY sold me on Quvenzhané in this role. I was nervous how she would pan out, but she looks pretty damn good. Cameron, however... oh God. What happened to her comic instincts? I was against her casting pretty much from the start, and this did absolutely nothing to assuage my fears.

It's a terrible trailer, that's for sure, but I'm not sure it actually makes me any more worried about the film as a whole. I do know one thing, though: Oscar play or not (and I don't think it is, other than maybe Quvenzhané), Christmas is the perfect time to open this movie, so I wish people would shut up with that particular bit of snark.

March 6, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterdenny

and the Razzie for Worst Supporting Actress goes to...

March 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRICK

I'm still kind of yikes on that trailer. I don't think I see a trainwreck in the making (it's not Johnny Depp as Tonto in The Lone Ranger), but I see Globe nods as the limit right now, as opposed to Oscar nods.

March 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

"...and making a good children's movie is VERY difficult..."

Yes, denny!!! which is why Alfonso Cuaron deserved an Oscar nomination for 'A LITTLE PRINCESS' (the '95 LAFCA runner-up for Best Picture)

people... if you haven't seen that gem of a film you are seriously missing out. and Diaz could take a page from Eleanor's Bron's book on how to project villainess to *both* children and adults without succumbing to blandness or cartoonishness. Yes, Diaz is in a loud musical but if you saw Bron in ‘Princess’ you’ll know what I mean.

March 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRyan S.

Quvenzhané looks solid to me, and I'm grateful for that, because I was really worried originally. I now think that she really can pull this off.

I will often defend Cameron Diaz to my naysaying friends because I really think she's a very talented comedic actress, but she looks HORRIBLE in this trailer. I'm praying that she's somehow better in the actual film.

Overall, the trailer was very poorly edited, but I'm not saying no just yet....

March 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKeelay!

of course Diaz's line readings are lazy... she went method after realizing how it got Day-Lewis three Oscars...

March 6, 2014 | Unregistered Commentertommy z

DIaz was the only thing that had me excited about this film...and now I'm 100% a no.

March 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJohn T

Wallis looks like she will come out of this smelling like a rose, and I'm very happy about that, but everything else about this - Diaz, "Will Stacks," the bland updated modern setting, etc - is terrible, so I'm an emphatic no.

But I'm a big yes on Ryan S's enthusiastic endorsement of Cuaron's Little Princess! Great movie.

March 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRoark

I'll go ahead and say I think it actually looks pretty good aside from Diaz. Foxx and Q have a nice chemistry, Byrne and Cannavale are always a joy to watch, and I'm always in for Sandy. Plus, the songs are genuinely good. So I'm a yes. (And it looks much better than Grace of Monaco - at least the studio isn't afraid of setting a US release date for this one.)

March 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

I'm a no. It sucks in concept, execution and casting (aside from QW).

I love movie musicals. Why not write something new? Why do a bad version of something that works so well in its original state.

March 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterHenry

oh the horror!

the casting of Quvenzhané is lovely but the rest looks awful. And Diaz? that looks Worst of the Decade Razzie worthy

March 6, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterchris

My theory is that Cameron played Miss Hannigan in high school and is just repeating that performance because judging by this trailer, her performance seems about as nuanced or adept as a high schooler. Jesus, what happened to the actress who was so perfect in My Best Friend's Wedding and Being John Malkovich?

March 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAaron

See, I hate the musical Annie with a burning passion, so I'm totally okay with a reimagining of the material. The only thing I ever like in any production (including ones I'm paid to arrange/teach/play music for) is Miss Hannigan. Lady got a bad rap for no good reason. Have you tried wrangling preteen girls into doing something productive? You'd go a little loony, too.

The autotune worries me more than the groaners because the actual Annie script is even cheesier than any of the jokes in the trailer. Believe me. I've had to read that sucker too many times to not remember how much of the dialogue was rewritten for the movie.

March 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRobert G

I don't watch many trailers because they generally give too much away and/or mislead, and since this one doesn't sound too promising, I will definitely avert my eyes. In any case, I was already a "probably no" on Annie since the only two things I ever liked about it were "Little Girls" and "Easy Street" (any sign of them here?).

March 7, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

what a mess but... it's gonna make big bucks and Quvenzhané deserves it

March 7, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterEric

Surely one can love musicals and still hate this trailer? I'm not even defensive of the original film -- Carol Burnett excepted, it's kind of a botched job -- but this looks to me to be pulling in all the wrong directions.

Camera and design work, in particular, are of more concern to me than the little singing we do hear. And I hope Jamie Foxx is more engaged here than he was in Dreamgirls, but I'm not seeing much evidence of that yet.

March 7, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterGuy Lodge

The trailer makes the dance (what there is of it) look clunky. My problem with the 80s version was the clunky dancing. Like, "let's not use dancers" sort of stompiness. This doesn't look better. I like Quvenzhané Wallis but I'm not convinced that's enough.

MAYBE SO.

March 7, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDeborah Lipp

Love the musical all you want to, but that was a shitty trailer. Cameron Diaz has RAZZIE written all over her. Such a horrid choice for Miss Hannigan. If this gets exposure for Quvenzhane Wallis in future roles, so be it. But if it's as bad as I'm guessing it will be, I hope she isn't dragged down with the sinking ship. Sandy knew what she was doing in dropping out of this project.

March 7, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDorian

This looks BAD.

Annie holds a special place in my heart. It was the first Broadway musical that got hold of me, the big winner at the first Tonys I watched, the first cast album I ever bought. Say what you will, it has one of the best scores ever for a musical. The songs are magic.

The Huston movie had a lot of problems, starting with the choice of director, but the casting saved it, and Albert Finney and Carol Burnett sold every moment they were on screen. They both understood it isn't supposed to be real--it's theater, even if it's a movie. The new trailer makes Annie feel like it went too far off into reality. That is not the point of Annie, which is supposed to be absolutely symbolic in its story and its theme.

Why didn't they cast Jane Lynch as Hannigan! She would have been perfect, AND she had already proven she could do it on Broadway. I just don't get how they came up with Diaz. I know they want to sell tickets, but how does that supersede making a good movie.

One bright spot: Rose Byrne. She alone could make this watchable.

* Let's Go to the Movies hopefully will not be used in this movie. It's not part of the original score, but was written for the 1982 film. And it replaced other better songs from the show.

March 7, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

Much Sandy. Very doge. Wow.

March 7, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAlex

someone PLEASE revoke Diaz's SAG card

March 7, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBruceV

So much second-hand embarrassment watching this trailer. It looks SO cheap. And what the hell happened to Cameron Diaz's acting abilities? They were there one day, weren't they? Right? The songs are so autotuned they sound like they came straight from Glee.

I thought the chemistry between Quvenzhané and Jamie Foxx adorable, but that's it. It looks like such a mess. I'll probably still watch it because musicals!, but just thinking of having to watch Cameron Diaz doing whatever it is she's doing in this trailer is painful.

March 8, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAnna

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