After her spellbinding performance in the uniquely beautiful Beasts Of The Southern Wild (2012), it was hard for many of us to imagine where Quvenzhané Wallis might turn up next.
She seemed so un-Hollywood.
I certainly would never have envisaged her starring as the eponymous little heroine in a story that, at its core, reflects so timelessly and tediously the American showbiz dream.
I had the dubious pleasure of seeing a well-intended performance of the stage musical on which this movie is based at the Gold Coast Arts Centre a few years back.
Even then it seemed dated and, though director Will Gluck’s adaptation has been brought forward to the hip by-ways of New York, 2014, it still feels like a relic from a time when people would believe anything.
Not that Annie (Wallis) is the poor little kitten who has lost her mittens – rather, in an attempt to keep up with the times, she is a not entirely likeable wisecracking street kid.
Notwithstanding the cloying corniness that can never be extracted from any story about an orphan who makes good (Dickens and Chaplin knew how to handle the subject matter with pathos and wit, but they’d be laughed out of town these days), it is the format that flops.
Ever since the unbelievable success of Chicago (2002) – an absolute stinker for the ages – the musical has rallied, but its implausible theatricality appears juvenile and jokey when compared to the hyper-realism with which CGI has now flooded the screens.
A big-name cast will probably help this break even at the box office, but it’s hard to fathom what audience it might find in Australia. Even allowing for the boom in ‘talent’ quests, we are generally less gullible than the Americans.
Jamie Foxx as the shonky mayoral candidate and Bobby Cannavale as his adviser do their best, but if you thought Pierce Brosnan had Van Gogh’s ear for music when singing in Mama Mia, you should hear Cameron Diaz in this. Ouch.
~ John Campbell