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Charlie’s Angels

CHARLIE’S ANGELS (2019) continues the concept of the original Charlie’s Angels tv series and previous movies: some guy named Charlie (now the voice of Robert Clotworthy, who was in both WHO’S THAT GIRL and HE’S MY GIRL in 1987) who you only hear over a speaker runs The Townsend Agency, which originally was a private detective agency but now seems to be an international spy organization? Its agents are all beautiful, glamorous women who are martial artists, masters of disguise, etc.

Since their helper “Bosley” has been played by many different actors throughout the franchise, this one explains that “Bosley” is a rank, like General, and we meet Bosleys played by Patrick Stewart (GUNMEN), Djimon Hounsou (ELEPHANT WHITE) and Elizabeth Banks (SLITHER), the latter of whom also directed and wrote the screenplay (story by Evan Spiliotopoulos [BATTLE FOR TERRA] and David Auburn [Tony and Pulitzer winner for the 2000 play Proof]. They bring together wild American Angel Sabina (Kristen Stewart, PANIC ROOM) and former MI-6 Angel Jane (Ella Balinska) to protect engineer Elena (Naomi Scott, Jasmine from live action ALADDIN, Pink Ranger from POWER RANGERS movie). Having created a vaguely defined clean energy device called Calisto for her employer, Elena has gone whistleblower after learning that it can be used to give people strokes, and now some tattooed hipster assassin asshole named Hodak (Jonathan Tucker, who played Boon, the last guy Raylan killed on Justified) is trying to kill her.

Stewart is the marquee name here, but she gets to be the comic relief, a goofball but not at the expense of her competence. In the cold open she has dinner with a high class smuggler (Chris Pang, I, FRANKENSTEIN, CROUCHING TIGER HIDDEN DRAGON: SWORD OF DESTINY) who so underestimates her she’s able to tie him up in a scarf and lift him off the ground with aerialist moves right in front of his two bodyguards. But while doing surveillance on another mission she takes time to appreciate cute dogs that walk by.

A moment when Stewart is really on is when they’re breaking into a lab and Jane needs Sabina to create a distraction. “I need you to exhibit some attention-seeking behavior,” Jane says over the radio.

“I have so many ideas!” Sabina says excitedly.

I hope Stewart keeps up this pattern of interesting performances with strong directors that give her enough credibility to make it seem like a coup when they get her to do something like this or UNDERWATER.

Jane is more serious, and at first finds Sabina so annoying she pushes her off a building, so they get some mileage out of their warming up to each other. Come to think of it Elena is mostly comical too, usually being awkward around them and trying to impress them. She’s both a supergenius and the regular person audience surrogate who’s brought into the fold and gets a tour of the Angels’ facilities and techniques. It’s all wish-fulfillment – don’t you wish you could get together with some fun girls, wear all kinds of crazy clothes and wigs, have unlimited gadgets, break into computers, sneak past security, make fools of sexist dudes, and then be welcomed home by a sensitive, handsome dude called Saint (Luis Gerardo Mendez) who provides you with organic feasts, backrubs and therapy (plus weapons)? Yes, it would be cool, and Elena, though initially the client, spends the movie trying to earn their respect and friendship.

Banks as Bosley – supposedly a former Angel herself – is a very Banks character, always wearing different expensive looking sunglasses and coats, acting like a snob but also sort of a den mother to the Angels. It’s kind of cool that she sort of took the series under her wing like Drew Barrymore did as producer-star of the other movie version.

I don’t know if this is still an unpopular thing to say, but I’m a fan of that McG-directed C’s As duology, or was at the time – haven’t seen them in a while. They had a very distinct vibe and sense of humor, a goofball celebration of fluffy pop culture, with women having fun doing wire-fu, wearing colorful costumes, riffing with Bill Murray or Bernie Mac, defying gravity, and randomly dancing. Even to this day I think Corey Yuen’s D.O.A. – DEAD OR ALIVE and Joseph Kahn’s TORQUE are the only movies that have been able to give me a vaguely similar feeling.

But CHARLIE’S ANGELS: FULL THROTTLE was more than a decade and a half ago, was considered a big flop at the time and was given an unbearably joyless critical battering. There has since been a 2011 attempt at a new TV series which didn’t take off (they only made 8 of 13 planned episode and only aired 7 of them). So I assumed this new version written and directed by Elizabeth Banks (who’s also in the movie as one of several Bosleys) would be a reboot, in its correct usage: turn off the computer, restart it anew. Not a sequel.

I was happy to discover otherwise. In a photo history of Bosley #1’s time at the agency he’s shown with the Angels from the original series and the movies. And I love that when they show Elena the costume closet you can see some of their disguises from the movies, including one of the FULL THROTTLE dirtbike outfits.

And I’m happy to report that they kept the random dancing. They knew that was important. And there’s a part where Sabina is disguised as a jockey with a pink helmet and goggles and I swear she looks like Penelope Pitstop.

(I also want to point out that Honsou’s character is seen in a ring teaching Jane fighting techniques, and could almost be the same character he played in NEVER BACK DOWN, which means maybe they should consider doing straight to video sequels directed by Michael Jai White.)

I wouldn’t be against an attempt at a “grittier” or more serious take on Charlie’s Angels, whatever that would be, but I like their choice of landing somewhere between the McG tone and maybe a MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE movie level of reality. So occasionally you get a sincere emotional scene, and the action (though over-the-top) acknowledges the existence of gravity. That means you can have a gatling gun pop out of Hodak’s dashboard, but you probly couldn’t step on a piece of explosion debris in midair and use it like a skateboard to slide down a bannister, like in FULL THROTTLE. Which is a loss, obviously, but I get it.

I had heard the action was terrible – there is definitely some choppy editing, and I prefer McG’s Hong Kong approach, but Jane gets some good moves and kicks some tables around and stuff, she does a cool pose hanging out the side of a spinning car firing a gun, etc. As you may know I enjoy the tradition of the public restroom fight, and have always wanted to see one where the hero stops to wash his/her hands afterwards. This one comes very close – Sabina has trouble activating the automatic soap dispenser, but she does in time to spin around and rub it in a dude’s eyes. I like it. The fight choreographer is Tolga Degirmen (KUNG FURY 2, A HIDDEN LIFE [not joking – IMDb says he is the fight choreographer for that Terence Malick movie]).

There’s a whole lot of light girl power talk. It opens with a pretty on-the-nose conversation about men underestimating women, and the opening credits have TV commercial style footage of girls around the world being inspirational – the level of earnestness had me convinced it was setting up a joke, but it wasn’t. I suspect some people would scoff at this surface level feminism, but I think it’s appropriate for an update of the famous “just ‘cause I’m hot don’t think I won’t karate chop you” TV show, and it works in conjunction with some slightly subtler touches, like Jane bringing a shipment of feminine hygiene products and birth control pills to a contact who runs a clinic in Istanbul. And they work in a pretty good catalog of annoying sexist behaviors like Elena’s dickhead boss (Nat Faxon, writer of THE DESCENDANTS and THE WAY WAY BACK) not noticing that he never let her talk at a meeting, or the pervy guard Ralf (David Schutter) being openly excited to wand her, and then telling her to smile. I mean it’s nothing revolutionary, but I think the movie is obviously intended to be empowering to young girls, and I think “you’re better than them, don’t ever put up with that shit” is a better message than LITTLE MERMAID or something.

Otherwise, it’s pretty much just a mildy amusing time waster with a likable cast and a lack of seriousness that goes to pretty well right now. I’ll soon forget it, but I don’t regret it. Probly for the best that I waited until it was on video and until my mind was numb from weeks of global pandemic fear. Honestly I could use some more crap like this.

 

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, March 10th, 2020 at 7:43 am and is filed under Action, Comedy/Laffs, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

26 Responses to “Charlie’s Angels”

  1. Don’t forget Jonathan Tucker as the silent assassin Hodak.

  2. Charlie’ Angels reportedly cost $93 million, grossed about $125 million in the US and about $264 million worldwide.

    Full Throttle (CA2) supposedly cost about $120 million, grossed $100 million in the US and about $259 million worldwide.

    As sequel declines go, there’s been worse. I heard the projected likely return of a third film versus likely cost put the kybosh on it.

  3. It just had no hook. No interesting personalities, no cool visuals, no particular take on the material. You saw the first cinematic trio and the kind of action they’d be doing and you got curious. What’s that even going to look like? You look at this trio and you don’t even know who they are, and the trailer gives no inkling of what kind of movie it even is. No personality, just boilerplate trailer gags and generic action beats with a cast that looks like it escaped from a show about lovelorn suburban witches on a lesser streaming service. Just no reason to see it at all. It’s probably perfectly acceptable light entertainment if you actually give it a chance but it’s no surprise that this combination of elements failed to get anyone excited.

  4. Charlies’ Angels 2000 sounds like a strange movie to call a “perfect movie” but I believe it accomplishes everything it sets out to do – the cheesecake scenes are sexy, the humor works, the action is still surprisingly awesome. The plot is JUST complicated enough not to feel too simple but also not so overly complicated that it’ll require another 30-45 minutes like the Bonds or the F&F series.

    Full Throttle is a huge, huge step down – the stunts are stupider, the humor suddenly turns into Epic Movie-style “I know what movie/TV Show you’re referencing!” gags, and yeah, the whole thing feels proud of how aggressively awful it is. But there’s a gonzo energy and pace that keeps it going – the motorbike sequence is still incredible, and Demi Moore (who I first thought was barely in it and underutilized) is actually kinda awesome in a low-key, “keeps you wanting more” way like Philip Seymour Hoffman in M:I:III. She’s never looked better onscreen and the casual reveal that she essentially has comic book-like superpowers like the other Angels is a great OH SHIT moment.

    I agree with Majestyk about CA ’19 – who wants to see a Charlie’s Angels movie where you don’t know 2 out of the 3 Angels, and the one Angel you actually do know, doesn’t exactly have a reputation for action, comedies, or cheesecake? (Stewart is actually pretty funny and really hot in the movie though). The action didn’t look as good, the jokes in the trailer don’t land, the theme song isn’t as good. I knew the movie wouldn’t be a hit, but it made less in its entire run than CA 2000 made in its first DAY. That’s crazy. I maintain a Force Awakens-style Legacy Sequel with Barrymore, Diaz, and Liu mentoring new Angels would have been a huge hit (or even just make Angels Balboa and forget about the new cast- I’d totally have seen that in the theater)

    The movie itself is what you’d expect in 2019 – too complicated, too long, full of ok jokes and mediocre action (I actually did like the last fight though). The only real surprise is there’s no cameos by the 2000’s team, and *SPOILER* the fact that they establish Patrick Stewart was the first Bosley and show him with Diaz, Barrymore, and Liu – we’re to assume he’s literally playing Bill Murray’s character the same way Jon Voight took over Jim Phelps from Peter Graves in M:I (and also subsequently turned heel)? I guess we should be glad nobody cared about this movie otherwise there’d be some pretty mad #notmyBosley fans out there.

  5. Oh – two things I forgot: 1) it’s weird how the 2000’s Charlie’s Angels movies are delightfully anti-gun (with only the villains using them and the Angels only fighting hand-to-hand), but the 2019 “woke” version has the Angels just straight up shooting people with blood splatter and everything. In a movie that’s trying really hard to be PC and intersectional, etc… it feels really weird, but who knows, I guess it’s easier than having your actresses actually train in martial arts like a bunch of suckers.

    2) Re: the on-the-nose dialogue and “sexist situations” checklist that comprise most of this movie – I didn’t mind when Birds of Prey did the same thing because there was an actual good movie around it (“Look, here’s a woman not getting enough credit at work! Here’s some scumbags trying to take advantage of a drunk girl!”) Within 5 minutes of this movie the unsubtlety was so tiresome I told my wife I’d eat my hat if a guy doesn’t show up to tell one of the Angels to smile more often and then gets punched in the face. And now I must find a hat to eat since the offending brute who told someone to smile GETS COMICALLY KILLED later as a gag. That’ll teach him.

  6. The 2000 movie was a miracle. Peak MTV filmmaking, a flashy style over substance trainwreck, that somehow managed to be immensely entertaining for all the right reasons. They were never be able to recreate it, but I whink what really hurt FULL THROTTLE, was that they tried to “legitimize” it, by trying to give the characters more depth and making the whole story a bit darker. Although it was admittedly only a small fraction of the movie, with the rest being a hollow rehash of what made part 1 so enjoyable, the result felt like one of those SIMPSONS episodes, were we are supposed to care about Homer’s and Marge’s marriage being in danger or Bart realizing that he hurt Lisa’s feelings. They are one-dimensional gag characters! Who the fuck cares? Go back to being silly.

  7. CJ you are 100% wrong about The Simpsons. When they went deeper the show got legit great. It told real stories. Much later Simpsons turned into the one dimensional cartoon characters and just got tiresome.

    Full Throttle though…what a mistake in all ways. The fiurst was trash but really worked, the second tried to be dark, had shit fights and even the shooting style of everything sucked. Just terrible.

    Doubt I’ll ever see this new one, I only saw the originals because that was back in the day where you got that sweet HK kung fu flavor in the cinemas for a few years and I needed any fix I could get. This new one just looks generic.

  8. I think you guys are vastly overestimating how legitimately “dark” anybody involved in COOL RANCH CHARLIE’S ANGELS thought they were getting. The entire movie is a joke about how, ever since EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, sequels to light entertainment tend to be much more self-serious than the originals. So you get all the dark secrets and emotional conflicts you’d expect from an actual movie, except it’s CHARLIE’S ANGELS so all the darkness is as as silly and inconsequential and post-modern as the lightness. It’s all a big pop culture-crazed joke. I mean, the reveal of Drew’s tragic past comes bundled with a butt pun, for god’s sake. How seriously do you think anyone involved expected you to take this?

  9. I will have to admit when CA:FT suddenly stops for 5 minutes to explain the convoluted backstory of Crispin Glover’s character, it absolutely played like a prescient parody of sequels and prequels having to dissect and explain every Goddamn thing. Like, was anyone out there REALLY wondering why he liked to sniff hair and shit? Of course not, which is exactly why the movie rubs it in your face. Whether that’s funny or not is up to you (I actually did laugh at that part. Also – at least it does SOMETHING with its silent assassin character, unlike the ’19 version where he’s not weird or funny or you can’t really see him fighting.)

    But I do think the Justin Theroux abusive ex-boyfriend storyline is played relatively seriously (butt puns and all), and I think we’re supposed to have some dramatic gravitas from Moore’s character feeling used and discarded by Charlie. It’s obviously not super-dark and gritty (Lucy Liu’s entire subplot is accidentally saying gangbang double-entendres to John Cleese for chrissakes) but I do agree it’s strangely “darker yet dumber” than the first one which might be a good combination for some people but apparently not most people.

  10. No no, I’m not saying that they were trying to gritty FULL THROTTLE up, but it’s noticable that, while part 1 was a string of random skits, they tried obviously to turn this into a “real” movie, with “real” characters and those “dramatic” moments, like Justin Theroux as supposedly scary villain, stick out like a sore thumb. It’s not an Asian Cinema-esque tonal shift, but every time I rewatch this movie, I wish they would just return to the fun parts. (Which they thankfully always do really fast.)

    Muh: Nah, nobody will deny that the earlier SIMPSONS seasons were more grounded (in fact: the classic Monorail episode was actually really controversial back in the days, because it was a huge departure from the more classic sitcom-esque tone of the show back then) and focused more on stories than gags, but honestly even during its first run I felt like we had no reason to care for example about how much more confident and successful Homer was when he grew his hair back. I mean, nobody ever says: “Man, do you remember the emotional journey that Bart went through when he pretended to be a genius?” It’s always: “Lol, Qwijibo.”

  11. I guess mileage varies on these things. Personally, those SIMPSONS episodes that got unexpectedly real are some of the masterpieces of television as far as I’m concerned, and the “drama” of COOL RANCH ANGELS makes it even funnier than the original.

    I defer to Bob Ross on this one: If you want your light to show, you need a little darkness.

  12. I tried to watch this, but it’s just too dull. Stewart is the only special thing it has going on, but she’s not allowed to carry the film on her own. Everything else is just awfully generic and uninteresting.

    The 2000 CA film is awesome. The sequel was also very good. This has 10% of the personality of those movies.

  13. The Undefeated Gaul

    March 20th, 2020 at 12:48 pm

    Same here, I found this dull to the point of being practically unwatchable. My biggest disappointment though is that they didn’t allow Jonathan Tucker to shine. That dude was amazing on KINGDOM and on paper he’s perfect casting for an unstoppable killer type role, but then they made him a mute – which just seems like a waste – and the action is so incompetently shot he doesn’t seem menacing in the slightest. Hope this doesn’t hurt his chances of coming back to this type of role in the future and being allowed to rock it like we all know he’s capable of.

  14. Some of the earliest SIMPSONS episodes are still some of my all-time favorites. I remember the big hype around the show during it’s premiere. Honestly, CJ is citing some of the wrong episodes that had deeper emotional arcs. The one where Bart saws off the head of the statue has some depth in terms of feeling how much he’s trying to hide the guilt he has until he confesses. Homer’s ode to Marge’s sandwich-making when she is swept up by the flirty bowling instructor. Even the episode where Bart goes to “war” with Nelson, when he is being bullied it is some powerful stuff. Yes, this is all minor-league in a dramatic sense, but animation never went to these lengths before, and that is what helped make the show (at least in it’s first decade) an all-timer.

    Even FAMILY GUY, which has done a real bang-up job in not making it’s audience emotionally invested in the characters, had some episodes recently that I found quite effective.

  15. CJ Holden…eh, I guess everyone has their own opinion but if you say who cares about the emotional journey or the grounding story at all when you just want empty lulz…I mean you can say that about anything. Why do they spend all that time on the characters in Dawn of the Dead, everyone just remembers the exploding heads. Why spend all the character time in Goodfellas, everyone remembers the montage where the mobsters are killed, lol. Who cares, just string together bits and nothing ever has to mean anything.

  16. For some reason so much of this conversation has made me want to mention that bit in the first GARFIELD animation where Garfield hugs a shivering Odie in the dog pound the night before he’s going to be taken away to be euthanised, and then it cuts to a flashback of them meeting as a kitten and puppy while a really sad song plays. I guess I just did.

  17. Now that you mention it pacman, my comment about animation not going to those emotional lengths before is very short-sighted. All you can do is consider the Charlie Brown TV specials, and later the movies. It plays as much to melancholia as it does laughs. I guess where THE SIMPSONS went beyond was in making that kind of world, but giving the adults equal footing.

    Speaking of television, I wonder why it was never brought up to just reboot CHARLIE’S ANGELS for television? If done right, it would be perfect for the kind of network ABC is now and nobody would think it was anything other than the franchise going back to it’s roots a little.

  18. Muh, but none of them are comedies about one dimensional gag machines, that suddenly start to pretend like they have some undeserved depth to them, in situations that are still more meant to be funny than touching.

  19. They rebooted CA for TV several years back and it flopped.

  20. We got the full season on pay TV, but I think in the US it got taken off the air after less than 5 episodes. I only watched the first five minutes of the pilot. One thing that made me laugh was the introduction of their Bosley. They were in a public pool and one of the Angels shouted “Hey, Bosley!” Then we cut to a guy who looked pretty much like the classic 70s Bosley, before the camera moved past him and revealed the hot, sexy, model looking like Bosley of this show, sitting in a whirpool with a bunch of ladies.

  21. I think the lack of interest in the recent TV show and the reboot proves that nobody actually gives a shit about CHARLIE’S ANGELS as a property. People watched the first movie because all three actress had star power out the wazoo, not because it was a brand that anyone had much fondness for. You can’t just plug any random three actresses into the formula and expect to have the same results.

  22. I think the lack of interest in the recent TV show and the reboot proves that nobody actually gives a shit about CHARLIE’S ANGELS as a property. People watched the first movie because all three actress had star power out the wazoo, not because it was a brand that anyone had much fondness for. You can’t just plug any random three actresses into the formula and expect to have the same results.

  23. “Three pretty ladies solve crime” isn’t really something that holds up beyond the 70s, unless you add a twist like the candy coloured popculture shotgun blast that were the 00 movies.

  24. CJ Holden…The Simpsons never “suddenly” started to have a human dimensional core to it. Yeah in the original skits that was all they were. But even in the Christmas special, the very first half hour Simpsons episode before there was even a show…and they weren’t simply one dimensional gag machines. From the beginning that was the show. Your thesis is simply incorrect, you can not like it, but that’s the truth.

    I mean the SIXTH episode was focused on Lisa being depressed, and then meeting a jazz friend who then dies.

  25. Well, I already stated it, but I have to repeat: Stewart is the pretty much the only interesting thing in this movie. Look at that first shot in the film. It stays on her face like 30 seconds. And it’s the best thing about the whole movie.

    Stewart was of course in Panic Room, which is an awesome, visionary directed thriller. Of my God how much I hope Fincher would return to his earlier career. But anyway, after that I saw Stewart in some fairly generic, yet effective horror movie from Asian (?) directors. And while the film itself was just pretty good, she was awesome. She carried the film on her shoulders. She was like 16 or 17 at the time and so interestingly beautiful, with amazing acting chops, and a really, really strong screen presence.

    From that moment, I always thought she was going to be a star. Because she was simply something special. But unfortunately, she is not doing the best choices at all. I really, really hope that she figures at some point and stops wasting her time in films like this, where she is clearly the best thing the film can offer.

  26. I haven’t seen her in too many things outside my Rifftrax-aided hate-watch of the TWILIGHT series (and I don’t hold it against her for being terrible in those films, since everybody except for Plaid Dad and Anna Kendrick were terrible in those films), but I liked her a lot in ADVENTURELAND and AMERICAN ULTRA. I don’t think a lot of people appreciate how hard it is to have that much onscreen impact while being that understated. I think she would have been a good addition to a CA reboot, but the other two needed to bring their own special sauce to the mix, too. These are star power movies. They’re not about picking the right actor for the part. Acting is superfluous to the appeal of these films. They’re about the right personalities. The audience needs to have some awareness of those personalities in order to be curious about the alchemy that will occur when they’re blended together. This one inspired no curiosity because two-thirds of the trio were (to me, at least) total strangers. Imagine if the other Angels were, say, Jennifer Lawrence and Tessa Thompson and the movie becomes hell of a lot more interesting. (Obviously the coolest choice would be Samara Weaving but the world’s not ready for that yet.) This cast feels like the B-team.

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