She came to our attention as likable sultry lounge singer Tina in “The Mask” and the irresistibly sweet Mary from the Farrelly brothers' “There’s Something About Mary.” In the years that followed, Cameron Diaz played endearing to perfection, even and especially when she was playing a sex symbol.
Though she may have been kicking butt, she was doing it in the name of good (“Charlie’s Angels”) and even when she was an irresponsible party girl with a Peter Pan complex, she still made us root for her (“In Her Shoes”). OK, there’s “Vanilla Sky,” but really, that’s “Vanilla Sky.”
All that changed for Diaz a couple summers back with “Bad Teacher,” with her turn as an unrepentantly hard-drinking, money-chasing, grade-school, er, pedagogue. And it will reach a new level of nastiness in the Will Smith-produced “Annie,” as it was announced late Wednesday that Diaz will play the outright villain, Miss Hannigan, she of the "scrub faster, young orphan" school of child-rearing.
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Diaz enters a role that comes with some high expectations. In part that’s because Sandra Bullock had already been reported for, and speculated about, for the role and, more important, because there are a number of greats who played Miss Hannigan before -- Carol Burnett, of course, but also Kathy Bates in a 1999 TV movie and a litany of solid actresses such as Sheila Hancock on the stage. Does Diaz have the right edge to do it? Will we want to see her if she does?
Though "Annie" is enjoying a vogue -- a well-received Broadway show opened last year -- the film has a bit of an odd trajectory. Annie has gone from Willow Smith to Quvenzhane Wallis, and the movie's producing roster includes Jay-Z. How much it will be a lighthearted family movie versus a more sophisticated interpretation adults can enjoy remains to be seen.
Of course if Diaz can’t pull it off, she can return to some of her trademark likable roles and we'd no doubt still want to see her. That's Diaz's power -- she can take a turn to evil, but the sun can always come out tomorrow.
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