A foster kid, who lives with her mean foster mom, sees her life change when business tycoon and New York mayoral candidate Will Stacks makes a thinly-veiled campaign move and takes her in.
Annie is an musical comedy-drama film directed by Will Gluck and produced by Jay-Z and Will Smith. It stars Quvenzhané Wallis in the title role and Jamie Foxx in the role of Will Stacks, an update of Daddy Warbucks. It is a contemporary adaptation of the musical of the same name, which was in turn based upon the 1924 comic strip Little Orphan Annie by Harold Gray.
Ten-year-old Annie Bennett (Quvenzhané Wallis) is a foster child living in Harlem. She lives with the alcoholic and bitter Colleen Hannigan (Cameron Diaz), who has taken in four other foster children named Isabella, Tessie, Mia, and Pepper in order to receive money from the state. Unlike the other girls, Annie believes her parents will one day return for her and imagines what they might be like (“Maybe”). The next morning, Hannigan (annoyed by the girls’ singing from the previous night) puts them to work cleaning up the apartment ahead of a visit from their social worker (“It’s the Hard-Knock Life”).
On the other side of the city, Will Stacks (Jamie Foxx), cell phone mogul and billionaire, is running a disastrous campaign for mayor of New York City. His hotshot adviser Guy (Bobby Cannavale), his assistant Grace Farrell (Rose Byrne), and bodyguard Nash (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) attempt to help him clean up his public image, but Stacks’ general dislike for people alienates him from would-be voters.
Running home from after another failed attempt to discover her parents (“Tomorrow”), Annie is rescued by Stacks from the path of a speeding truck. A video of Stacks’ heroism goes viral and his approval rating goes up. Guy suggests that Stacks invite Annie to his home for lunch as a publicity stunt to capitalize on the public interest in Annie. Annie, recognizing an opportunity, suggests that Stacks become her temporary guardian, promising him more photo opportunities. Stacks agrees, and Annie moves into his luxurious but lonely penthouse (“I Think I’m Gonna Like It Here”). Meanwhile, Hannigan is frustrated that Annie has become famous while her own life goes nowhere (“Little Girls”).
Stacks arranges many public outings with Annie, always in the eye of reporters and social media, including taking her to a film premiere with her foster sisters (“You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile”). Grace and Nash are charmed by their new charge and soon grow to love her. Annie, however, grows concerned that Stacks never seems to enjoy himself and does her best to cheer him up. Stacks, in turn, begins to see that Annie’s life mirrors his own disadvantaged childhood. He begins to open up to her, culminating in the two bonding over their mutual love of New York City (“The City’s Yours”). However, during a public event when Stacks asks Annie to read a speech (“Opportunity”), he learns that Annie is illiterate, making him realize that he cares for Annie and makes plans to formally adopt her.
Guy, who does not see or understand the change, plans to stage a publicity stunt in which Stacks will reunite Annie with her parents. This he believes will be the final stroke to getting Stacks elected mayor, while securing for Guy a huge bonus that will allow him to retire from public relations. He offers Hannigan part of his anticipated bonus if she will help him find a set of fake parents to present to the public at the right moment (“Easy Street”), but when Hannigan bungles her end of the deal, he ditches her in favor of hiring two actors (Tracie Thoms and Dorian Missick) and faking a DNA test.
Annie is publicly reunited with her “parents”. Stacks is miserable at the prospect of losing her, and Hannigan is disturbed to learn that Guy plans to leave Annie with these strangers until after the election, then abandon her on the streets. Hannigan, Will, and Annie reflect on their inner conflict (“Who Am I?”) before Hannigan, along with the foster girls, goes to Stacks to tell him that Annie is in danger.
After an extended car/helicopter chase, the fake parents are cut off by Stacks’ helicopter and the police. Annie is rescued. Due to the comments the impostors made, Annie still believes that Stacks betrayed her. To prove himself, Stacks goes to the reporters on the scene and formally announces he is withdrawing from the mayoral race in order to spend more time with his new adopted daughter Annie. At Annie’s urging, Stacks invites Grace to dinner and the two kiss marking their new romantic relationship. Annie, Grace, and Stacks look forward to their future as a family (“I Don’t Need Anything But You”).
Some time later, Stacks is devoting his time and money by giving back to New York City starting by founding a literacy center. Annie is able to read a speech at the opening for the center. The film concludes with the whole cast singing a reprise of “Tomorrow”.