Charlie's Angels Review
Hollywood has always loved coming up with new ideas. Unfortunately, the Hollywood definition of ‘an original idea’ is fairly loose, and frequently involves ‘totally ripping off a foreign film’ and ‘rebooting an old franchise to cash in on the name’. It really does not matter whether or not the original material was any good; but the quality of it does generally directly affect the quality of the remake (even if they are still, almost invariably, inferior). Film franchise reboots annoy the hell out of me – do we really need another Spiderman rehash, or another Fantastic Four production, just because the original movies (all made over the last decade) had either run their course, or had proved not quite successful enough to keep going? Where does it all end? I mean, why on earth would anybody think that Paul Verhoeven’s Robocop needs to be remade? But remakes of recent foreign movies are just as bad – and just as disrespectful – arguable just catering for those who are put off by the notion of having to read (subtitles) and would prefer to see a familiar American face do all of the action. I think Martin ‘Raging Bull’ Scorsese is a great Director – one of the best – but I don’t know why on earth he thought it would be a good idea to remake the great 2002 Hong Kong film Infernal Affairs into his decent but utterly unnecessary The Departed, just four years later!
Adapting old TV shows for the Big Screen appears to be just as popular, even though I’ve seldom come across a decent end result. I don’t really know why they bother. It’s not like anybody’s going to mind a huge amount if a TV series from their youth is rehashed 30 years later in cinematic form, but that’s mostly because the original shows were largely only fondly remembered for nostalgic reasons. I mean, have you tried watching an episode of The A-Team as an adult? Or Starsky and Hutch? They have their moments, but they do not exactly make for compulsive viewing. So why bother remaking them in the first place? The only hope would be for the production crew to take the material reasonably seriously (the only example I can think of is Mann’s Miami Vice) – perhaps not always as it was originally intended – and, more often than not, this is not the approach that they take (check out this year’sThe A-Team to see just what vapid nonsense Hollywood is capable of). Charlie’s Angels was never an acclaimed TV series. It may have been way before my time, but I’ve never heard it particularly regarded as a classic, despite it being massively popular during its airing. Still, three hot female secret agents fighting crime? That’s your Hollywood pitch right there. And whilst Director McG’s adaptation is ludicrously over-the-top, it is probably more fun than the original show ever was. But that’s not exactly saying much is it?
Natalie (Cameron Diaz), Dylan (Drew Barrymore) and Alex (Lucy Liu) are three very unusual and very special ladies. From a young age they proved their worth in various different fields – from the Police Academy to NASA – and were subsequently recruited by a mysterious, anonymous voice-on-the-other-end-of-the-phone, simply called ‘Charlie’. Employed by him to go on highly important secret missions around the globe, we kick off by seeing Charlie’s three super-spies parachute out of a passenger plane and diffuse a bomb in mid-air. Well, actually, they don’t diffuse it – per se – but instead rip it from the bomber it’s strapped to, allow it to detonate, and then ride the ensuing fire-blast down to a waiting speedboat. These are Charlie’s ‘Angels’.
It turns out that the three delectable ladies all have men trouble too – mostly resulting from their secret identities. They can’t cook, they dance funny and they can be a bit clumsy when put under pressure. But on a mission, they simply kick ass. Their latest assignment? To rescue the kidnapper high level programmer Eric Knox, whose revolutionary voice recognition software could be used to nefarious ends. With help from their trusty man-friend, Bosley, they have to find the man and uncover whatever devious mind is behind the entire plot – as Charlie’s very life may indeed be on the line.
Wow, if there was any movie where the plot goes straight out the window – it’s Charlie’s Angels. Of course, it doesn’t help that they had about 30 writers working on the script (and they probably didn’t talk to one another either, maybe writing a paragraph each for fun – like kids playing 'consequences'). But whatever vague outline I have tried to describe above really does not matter – it’s all just an excuse to have the titillating trio run around in the skimpiest, most revealing and/or figure-hugging outfits, frequently shaking their collective booty (literally), and punch and kick their way through the streets using the power of wire-assisted slo-mo. Seriously, if you thought The Matrix took it to the next level, you should see Charlie’s girls – they kick their way horizontally across the screen like a bunch of catwalk models doing some violent variation of back-crawl, only in reverse. It’s preposterous, ludicrous, and – from time to time – quite a bit of fun, actually.
You see McG’s creation may run on pure octane, with a tremendously high action quotient, but it also – thankfully – has its tongue firmly planted in its cheek. Establishing this right from the outset, its knowing self-awareness is perhaps the only saving grace. Although even that does not completely save the movie. For all the frenetic action – random trips to the racetrack lead to an inevitable F1 sprint down the streets, a helicopter assault leads to plenty of swinging around on the damn thing – and fantastical martial arts moments (you won’t have seen many of these moves before – because they almost all defy physics), for all the shots of Cameron Diaz wiggling her pert bum, or Drew Barrymore’s increasingly unzipped cleavage – or Lucy Liu in leather, the movie is just too shallow to digest as anything other than a brains-switched-off silly Bank Holiday matinee movie. Utterly unmemorable, it is flash, stylish and unabashedly over-the-top, and gives you absolutely no reason to revisit it. Hmm, well there was that show of Cameron Diaz in a bikini...
I find McG to be a pretty soul-less director. No, I don’t think he’s a Terminator, it’s just that his movies are totally devoid of heart and soul. Charlie’s Angels looks like a bunch of very attractive people being filmed having a great deal of fun pretending to fight with one another and blow stuff up. Terminator 4 painted a bleak picture of a dystopic future where Judgment Day had been and gone, and John Connor is now a grown man fighting for the Resistance on the front line of the war against the machines. But the human characters were more devoid of humanity than the robots they fought. McG has an eye for grand spectacle, as was even evident back with Charlie’s Angels, his debut feature, but he simply cannot bring any meaningful depth of character to the front. You only like the characters because they’re either cute or funny or both. And, honestly, they are not funny enough for this to be called a proper comedy. Sure there are plenty of silly moments, (unintentional and intentional), wisecracks, double-entendres and even a few nice cameos from the likes of Sam Rockwell, Tom Green, Tim Curry and Bill Murray (who looks like he’s having a whole lot of fun with these three babes), but this isn’t quite a spoof, or an all-out laugh-fest. It’s just mildly amusing, no doubt in an attempt to compensate for the frequent, knowingly over-the-top action sequences.
All in all, Charlie’s Angels is an undeniably fun ride, but not one which will likely remember much about after having watched it. You might remember the tune, but that’s probably because you heard it on the 70s show. Oh, and you might remember Diaz’s underwear. But everything else comes and goes, and Charlie’s Angels leaves little positive trace of its existence. Massively popular at the Box Office, its trio of stars went on to do an equally mind-numbing – and equally fun – sequel, which will no doubt also not be remembered for much at all. Still, if you’re bored of watching MTV, and have a Saturday afternoon to kill, there are worse things to do than revisit this – particularly if you haven’t seen it since its release. It may be just as unmemorable, but at least that will make it feel like a fresh new flick. Hot babes, a dash of comedy, a heavy helping of ridiculous action and a plot as non-existent as the characterisation, this is throwaway frivolity taken to the max. Massively shallow but mostly harmless fun.