It’s the hard-knock life, retooled, in ‘Annie’

December 19, 2014 12:42 AM

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It’s the hard-knock life, retooled, in ‘Annie’

For about 15 minutes, the new “Annie” looks like it might turn into something. After briefly teasing us with a frizzy carrot-top (Taylor Richardson) right out of our collective pop unconsciousness, the film brings on “Annie B” — Annie Bennett (Quvenzhané Wallis), a bright-faced African-American kid who turns a school report on FDR into a classroom jam, then heads north to Harlem cheering up everyone she meets. It’s a prettified Harlem, with the film’s title drawn on the sidewalk in rainbow chalk, but in its kid-friendly way “Annie” appears poised to acknowledge the gap between rich and poor in a way that the Depression-era comic strip’s tough-nosed creator, Harold Gray, might recognize.

That sense of creative rejuvenation doesn’t last long. Directed by Will Gluck (“Friends With Benefits,” “Easy A”) from a script by him and Aline Brosh McKenna, the new “Annie” tries to update the 1978 Broadway musical warhorse with ethnic diversity, big stars, revamped characterizations, and watery ...

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