A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Annie is an updated version of the classic stage and movie musical. Set in modern-day New York and starring Quvenzhané Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild), Annie features familiar songs (updated by Jay-Z and Sia) and Annie's typically hard-knock life with vile foster mom Miss Hannigan (Cameron Diaz), who drinks too much and terrorizes the girls in her care. Younger kids may find her hostile parenting style very unsettling (she yells in a drunken rage and sprays the girls with Windex). There are a few tense scenes where Annie is in danger (she's also rescued from being hit by a car by Daddy Warbucks stand-in Will Stacks, played by Jamie Foxx), a bit of language ("hell," "damn," "sucks," etc.), and a little flirting and kissing. Illiteracy is also an issue for one of the main characters and is aggressively tackled once it’s discovered. Some kids might find it upsetting that Annie was abandoned at a restaurant as a young child, but the movie talks about foster families and social class in an interesting way. It may not live up to the classic for some die-hard fans, but it's an entertaining family film with good music.
What's the story?
ANNIE is a modernized take on the Little Orphan Annie story, with updated music and a present-day New York setting. In this version, Annie (Quvenzhané Wallis) is a foster child who's living with the vile Miss Hannigan (Cameron Diaz) when cell phone tycoon Will Stacks (an updated version of Daddy Warbucks, played by Jamie Foxx) saves her from being run over by a truck. His shady campaign manager (Bobby Cannavale) decides that Stacks needs a child to make him more human, so Annie leaves her hard-knock life for a penthouse apartment. Annie sings her heart out, goes to fancy Hollywood parties, and continues her search for her birth parents.
Is it any good?
The best scene in this generally likable musical is the first one. A little redheaded girl sings an inspiring poem, and you think it will be the same old story; then she sits down, and the Annie of this movie, Wallis, appears. She does her school report on social class differences, and you get the idea that this Annie will be much different than the one in the classic tale. But while it's refreshing to see a new, modern take on Annie -- as well as any kids' movie that talks about class and poverty -- Annie doesn't quite live up to its potential. It misses many opportunities to build the characters and offer teachable moments, instead opting for cheesy dialogue and endless panoramic views of New York City. The lead characters lack passion and emotion; we never fully understand why Stacks is so hard or why Grace is such a workaholic, making it hard to embrace the family they'll become. It drags a bit and is convoluted and hokey at the end.
Still, Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild) is impressive -- she outshines her foster dad in every scene. And Diaz is fun as the wretched, aging almost-pop star, Miss Hannigan. Jay-Z and Sia updated the music and added original songs which, although sometimes great, upstage the rest of the movie. Annie isn't perfect, but it's an entertaining musical with a good mix of the old-fashioned Annie spirit and modern life.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Annie's choices. Do you think she was justified in sneaking out and lying to Miss Hannigan because Miss Hannigan wasn't very nice?
Which characters are intended to be role models? How can you tell? Could they have done more/other things to better demonstrate their positive qualities to kids?
For fans of the original, how does this one compare? What's different, and what's the same? Which do you like better?
What role does media play in the story? How does that make Annie and her friends' life different than it was for the original Annie?
How does the movie depict foster parents? Do you think it's intended to be realistic?
- In theaters: December 19, 2014
- On DVD or streaming: March 17, 2015
- Cast: Jamie Foxx, Quvenzhane Wallis, Cameron Diaz
- Director: Will Gluck
- Studios: Sony Pictures Releasing, Columbia Pictures
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Misfits and Underdogs, Music and Sing-Along
- Run time: 118 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: some mild language and rude humor
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.