Trailers@24 Panels: ANNIE (2014)

Here at 24 Panels, we like to give each new comic book movie trailer the roundtable treatment. This time, we take a look at the first trailer for the remake of Annie, from director Will Gluck (Easy A).

DAVE: The main question that has been hanging over this new version of Annie thus far (for me at least) is how much Will Gluck and crew have reworked the source materials in order to make the story a contemporary piece. The original comic strip Little Orphan Annie was born out of the time immediately prior to the Great Depression, and the strip is so identified with the 1930s that it comes as no surprise that the creators of the famous 1977 stage musical Annie — which this new film is primarily an adaptation of — decided to set their production in the Depression era. While the recent recession has created a culture to which an updated Annie might be relevant, the task of updating the material requires a thoughtful and careful approach. One cannot simply take Annie and just dump her in contemporary times and think that the story will work.

Unfortunately, if the first trailer for Annie 2014 is indicative of the final film, it doesn’t seem that a thoughtful reworking of the property is what we will be getting. Director Will Gluck seems to have crafted a slick, big budget update on the stage show, one which appears to be just as over-the-top and schmaltzy as John Huston’s 1982 film version of Annie. For a film about an orphan dealing with the hardships of life, the world seems remarkably clean and shiny (and frankly middle class) before Annie (Quvenzhané Wallis) comes into the world of billionaire Will Stacks (Jamie Foxx). The choice is a rather odd one, given the economic stratification which is creating a greater divide between the poor and the wealthy in pretty much every Western nation, and depending on how the economic and class issues play out in the finished film,  the filmmakers might come across as rather ignorant of the modern reality of those living through such hardships. At the very least, the presentation of these issue as seen in the trailer is indicative of just how much of a fantasy the film is going to be.

The underlying politics of the new Annie aside, it is rather odd just how much this trailer indicates the final film will feel like the Annie we all know and either love or hate (I’ve rarely ever met anyone with mixed feelings towards the musical). Certainly, the music helps in this regard, as it doesn’t seem like any of the songs featured have been reworked to any great degree, but there are other choices being made which appear to have been based on trying to emulate (or imitate) the 1982 film. It is hard not to look at Cameron Diaz’s performance thus far and feel like the direction she was given was “try and outdo Carol Burrnett,” who gives a performance so big and overblown in the Huston film that it irritates me every time I watch it (which isn’t often). Hopefully Diaz’s performance will work better in context.

Still, there are elements of this trailer which do give me hope for the film. Quvenzhané Wallis and Jamie Foxx thus far appear to have great on-screen chemistry, and if this film is going to work at all, it is because we buy into their relationship. Wallis in particular seems to be striking the right balance of youthful enthusiasm and savvy in the titular role, and if nothing else, might easily come out of this film as the best Annie we’ve ever had on screen. Foxx seems to be having fun as Stacks, and I have to admit to chuckling at the bit at end of the trailer between him and Diaz.

Of course, when all is said and done, I’m not really the target audience for this film; that would be families, and bar some fairly radical (and bizarre) events in my life, I don’t see myself as having a kid of theatre-going-age to take to see Annie in December. How about you Dru? Any mystery children waiting to force you to see the film?

DRU: We all know that I’m the proudest unkie to ever live, but I don’t think that Sweet Baby Charlotte will be quite old enough to appreciate this come December (though I would certainly love to hear her try to sing the songs). Truth be told, I don’t have much to offer on the trailer per se — I think it looks fine for what it is, and I’ve never read the comic strip or seen the original film or stage production upon which this is based. I thought the music worked well, and it’s got a great cast. The presence of Rose Byrne is usually enough to get me to watch anything.

Like you, I’m also not the target demo for this film. There was a comment on this subject on the post announcing this trailer on /Film that I read last night that really got my goat, it’s mostly that that I want to talk about:

“what demographic is this movie for? im 24yr old male and i have zero interest in.”

It’s fairly obvious what demographic this movie is for. IT’S A FAMILY MOVIE. The fact that this grown man, confronted with a movie not aimed squarely at his “24yr old” head, responds with BLEEP-BLOOP DOES NOT COMPUTE is pretty ridiculous. We cover all kinds of films here at 24 Panels: the thing that unifies them is their relationship to comics, not their target demo. Lucky for this guy (but unlucky for culture), just about every other film being made by the studio system is aimed squarely at him.

If you take a gander at our upcoming slate (for the podcast), you’ll notice that we’re going to be giving coverage to some lesser known stuff, and specifically getting away from the superhero genre more often than not. We’re tackling Garfield this month, and a British animation called When the Wind Blows in April. Adventurous, open-minded film lovers should stay tuned to 24 Panels all summer for some killer counter-programming. (And all you 24yr old males won’t be left out either, so don’t worry.)

Anyway, I’ve gotten pretty far off topic. James, reel us back in. What’d you think of this trailer?

JAMES:  Well, I’ve never read or seen any version of Annie (my knowledge of the music is limited to this and this—both are great), so sadly I can’t comment on that regard; however, with a toddler, I am quickly fitting into the film’s target demographic. Based on this trailer, I’d drop some coin to take the family out for a matinée. Politics aside, Dave, this does look to be a pretty sweet and endearing film. It certainly has a good pedigree going for it: Jamie Foxx is endlessly reliable and Quvenzhané Wallis is a critical darling after the success of Beasts of the Southern Wild (still unseen by me, sadly—get with it, Netflix!). Plus, director Will Gluck’s Easy A was a real surprise with utterly charming performances, so I’m curious to see he can coax similar effervescence from these actors—and it looks like he does.

I can only hope that Annie delivers an effective family film experience that doesn’t just play by the numbers. Remember, there’s also nostalgia at play here: those who grew up with the 1982 Huston film are now this Annie‘s target demographic. It won’t be enough to simply give the same notes a 2014 polish. The Christmas release date makes me hopeful that its sights are a little higher.

Annie opens in cinemas December 19.

Dave

Dave is the co-host of 24 Panels Per Second.

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