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Quvenzhané Wallis is irrepressibly cute as the mop-top kid who melts the heart of a tycoon and belts out the showstopping ‘Tomorrow’ in this contemporary take on Charles Strouse and Martin Charnin’s classic Broadway musical – but almost everything going on around her in Annie is irredeemably crass.

Cameron Diaz mugs away manically as Annie’s mean carer Ms Hannigan (Annie is now a foster kid, not the lil’ orphan of the original Depression-era story), and Jamie Foxx looks pained as the phobic telecom tycoon, Will Stacks, who takes the girl under his wing – and into his spiffy penthouse pad – as a publicity stunt (he’s campaigning to become New York’s mayor). Playing Stacks’ tightly wound assistant, Grace, Rose Byrne emerges with her dignity intact, which can’t be said for Bobby Cannavale’s slimy PR expert, the story’s chief villain.

But it’s director Will Gluck, not the actors, who is really responsible for the film’s failings. Along with co-writer Aline Brosh McKenna, he hits all the wrong notes, mucking up the songs with his clod-hopping direction and choppy editing. He has no sense of rhythm, delivering one relentlessly perky montage after another without making any of the tunes stick – the old ones have had their lyrics re-jigged; the new ones are blandly unmemorable. And when the movie reaches its flat-footed finale, the viewers’ heartstrings remain unplucked.

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Certificate PG. Runtime 118 mins. Director Will Gluck.

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