The perky 1977 Broadway musical Annie became a clunky movie in 1982. It gets a spirited makeover in a new film version that replaces the munificent Daddy Warbucks with cold-hearted workaholic billionaire Will Stacks (Jamie Foxx), who's flopping in his race for mayor of New York. So he brings foster child Annie Bennett (Quvenzhané Wallis) — an imaginative little charmer who believes that "luck is for suckers" — into his Manhattan penthouse for a game-changing extended photo op. Little did he know he'd fall for the tyke, even though we all do.
This Annie has four new songs and re-scores most of the remaining older ones in a jazzy pop key. The script essentially never acknowledges that the two leads are black, and the story's two romances are cross-culture. So it's a post-racial fantasy for our tense times, with specks of social consciousness, nods to the role of social media in politics, and even a few meta-winks to itself as a musical. The supporting cast (Cameron Diaz, Rose Byrne, Bobby Cannavale) performs ably, although director Will Gluck sometimes cranks up the orchestra to mask some merely capable voices. And Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild) is fantastic — alert, thoughtful and more than just a "natural," the worst compliment you can pay a child actor.