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Stars: Quvenzhané Wallis, Jamie Foxx, Rose Byrne, Cameron Diaz, Bobby Cannavale, Stephanie Kurtzuba

Director: Will Gluck

Will Gluck's film is a classic example of how not to update a well-loved musical. The new tunes are distinctly unmemorable compared to the few originals left - though Wallis makes the most of her Opportunity - while the choice of settings for the songs leaves a lot to be desired. The updating of the background score to a sledgehammer beat is not successful and all but drowns out most of the vocals, which are well enough sung by the cast, although there's little joy and even faint embarrassment to be sensed in some of their performances.

And yet, in spite of everything Gluck (who also co-wrote the new songs) can throw at it, the heart of the movie somehow survives. Orphan Annie (Wallis), who describes herself as a 'foster kid', is one of five girls suffering under the not-so-tender care of frowzy alcoholic Miss Hannigan (a wild performance by Diaz); every Friday Annie waits outside the restaurant where she was abandoned, in the hope of being reunited with her parents.

One day, Annie's 'hard knock' life changes when she is rescued from being run over by politician Will Stacks (Foxx), the underdog in the city's mayoral race. When, with the encouragement of his devoted PA Grace (Byrne), he takes Annie under his wing, his image softens and his popularity rises.

There are spanners lurking in the works, though, in the shapes of both Hannigan and Stacks' sneaky right-hand man (Cannavale).

Alas, there's no sense of poverty or deprivation in Annie's circumstances here - something much better expressed 75 years ago by Shirley Temple in The Little Princess. Wallis is chirpy and sings decently, but it's a below-par follow-up for her after her sensational emergence in Beasts of the Southern Wild.

Blink and you'll miss guest cameos from Ashton Kutcher, Rihanna and Michael J Fox.

David Quinlan

USA 2014. UK Distributor: Sony (Columbia). Colour by deluxe.
118 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: PG.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 21 Dec 2014