Not to pile on Sony's current woes, but the studio's update on "Annie" has some issues.The new incarnation of the Broadway hit is set in New York and was filmed in New York, but we have some concerns about its portrayal of New York. Not to nitpick, but there are a few things the movie gets very, very wrong, such as:
There is enough Manhattan neighborhood crossing from one shot to the next in this film, you almost think they're doing it on purpose to mess with New York audiences. It could even be a drinking game, though likely a lethal one. Most jarring? Will Stacks (Jamie Foxx) enters his high rise at Columbus Circle, but what's that a few blocks away once he's upstairs? The Freedom Tower. And come on. Crossing the George Washington Bridge, taking an immediate right and ending up in Liberty Park? Who do you think you're kidding?
Foxx's Stacks is a telecom billionaire stomping his way into the New York City Mayor race, but having a reporter ask, "Do you really think a businessman can be a successful mayor?" is not the cute, winking reference to three terms of Bloomberg you think it is. Instead, it establishes your film as taking place in an alternate reality where someone else was mayor for those 11 years. And if that's the case, what else is different in this bizarro New York? And it especially doesn't help when that reporter is NY1's Pat Kiernan, playing himself. Speaking of…
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Speaking of Pat Kiernan, any New Yorker worth their everything bagel knows that NY1 stalwart and loveable Canadian expat is an anchor, not a man-on-the-street reporter. He mans the desk, dutifully reading the newspapers to us every morning. He does not, as the movie portrays, elbow his way ahead of other reporters on the street to shout questions at a mayoral candidate. Show some respect.
Aside from "updating" some old "Annie" standards with some GarageBand drum loops that make you long for co-producer Jay-Z's earlier work, Will Gluck's film clearly doesn't really want to be a musical. Some stretches are scored with unconnected pop songs — you know, like a normal movie — while the most inspired moments in the film, few as they are, come when Gluck gets to make the kind of winking comedy he's better at — and which has no place in an "Annie" movie. Three seconds of Patricia Clarkson screaming about being burned by a cell phone battery was more entertaining than anything pertaining to the plot.
So Miss Hannigan? The dastardly orphan-wrangler portrayed by Carol Burnett in the 1982 film? Yeah, she's evil, pure and simple. But maybe Cameron Diaz wouldn't do the part unless the character got some sort of softening and redemption. If that's the case, they really should've let that be a deal-breaker.
Speaking of Miss Hannigan, Diaz's failed singer/back-up dancer is beyond grating, but at least the "I was kicked out of C+C Music Factory just before they made it" bit is cute. Less cute? Her line about almost being one of Hootie's blowfish. Anyone who actually gets that reference will realize it gets completely wrong what that band was and how it was composed, and then they'll just be mad at you for making them spend that much time thinking about Hootie and the Blowfish. And why are you so intent on making your audience mad at you?
When Annie moves into Mr. Stacks' video-screen-lined penthouse, she reprograms it to show just the cutest things possible drifting across the walls. How cute? At one point, her bedroom wall shows a basket of kittens. A literal basket of kittens. Guys, that's just an expression.
A minor movie pet peeve that becomes a glaring problem in "Annie" is the use of "amateur" video posted to YouTube. Except the footage bystanders upload just happens to be the actual footage from the film you're watching. Hey, great camera work, random New Yorker! It's crazy you can get such great resolution, zooming and editing capabilities on a Samsung.
Speaking of social media, a climactic chase during which Annie is tracked via her social media presence as New Yorkers post photos of her to Twitter and Instagram is either a sad misapprehension of how people use those networks — I mean, do you type in the intersection you're at when you post? — or a terrifying example of how exploitable geolocation data can be.
Despite a throwaway line by Jamie Foxx warning that another character shouldn't venture above 110th Street because "we'll bust you up," the person in charge of casting background actors in the Harlem-set scenes does an inadvertently great job of showing how gentrified the neighborhood has become.
Follow Ned Ehrbar on Twitter: @nedrick