As Will Gluck's new film version of "Annie" opens, an adorable red-haired moppet stands in front of her class reading a plucky book report. As she finishes, her teacher rolls his eyes and calls on the next student, Annie B. With that very post-modern move, things are handed over to Quvenzhane Wallis, who approaches her first scene the way she approaches literally every single second of the film: big smile in place, bouncing rather than dancing, and sing-talking her way through songs that demand a much better singer.
Harsh, perhaps, but from start to finish, "Annie" feels like a movie made by people who are deeply embarrassed to be working on a musical, and that's a problem. Wallis, who is an appealing young performer, simply doesn't have the chops for what has traditionally been one of the more demanding leads in a musical for a young performer, and Gluck, along with co-writer Aline Brosh McKenna, has built a film around Wallis that is constantly undercutting the songs, the choreography, and the entire idea of musicals. Jamie Foxx seems like he's the most comfortable out of all the cast members with the music, while Rose Byrne seems to have finally found something she's not awesome at, and Bobby Cannavale is either dubbed by another singer or has the single most "that is not what I would have expected" voice I've ever heard. Cameron Diaz growls her way though a couple of things, and between her singing and the way she plays Mrs. Hannigan, this might actually be cumulatively more uncomfortable than "Sex Tape," no easy feat.