I thought the original Charlie’s Angels was one of the better movie adaptations of an old TV show. For starters, they cast the film with big-name stars (as opposed to, say, the film version of The Beverly Hillbillies). Also, the people involved found just the right tone: campy but not too campy, faithful to the premise but not overly reverent. All in all, it seemed like a bunch of big stars extracted the fundamental premise of the show, contemporized it, then had a big party during which they filmed it. For me, that approach was infectious; I saw the movie three times and had fun with it each time. “Fun” is certainly the key word for the sequel, Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, as well. Anyone going to this movie expecting substance, subtlety, or sophistication is barking up the wrong tree. Like its predecessor, the sequel simply asks you to surrender yourself to the fun.
Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore, and Lucy Liu return as Natalie, Dylan, and Alex, respectively. Natalie is now moving in with boyfriend Pete (Luke Wilson), while Alex is on “time out” from her relationship with Jason (Matt LeBlanc). Dylan remains single and looking, although she fears that Natalie will leave the team if her relationship heats up too much. Alex, meanwhile, gets a visit from her father (John Cleese), who has no idea what she really does for a living. Jason tries to explain but ends up giving the man the wrong idea. Since Bill Murray declined to participate in the sequel, the role of Bosley is now played by Bernie Mac. (Actually, his Bosley is supposed to be the brother of Murray’s Bosley – one of the movie’s many in-jokes.)
Mission-wise, the angels are summoned by Charlie to locate two titanium rings that, when put together, can be read by a computer. Stored on the rings are the names and addresses of people in the Witness Relocation Program. The trail leads to several different foes who are working together. Seamus O’Grady (Justin Theroux) is a former boyfriend of Dylan’s who has just been released from prison and wants to find her. Then there’s Madison Lee (Demi Moore), a one-time angel (a fallen angel, perhaps?) who wants to get revenge against her former employer.
Although there is a plot, that’s not the main concern here. The Charlie’s Angels movies really have two aims. For the guys, they work as a kind of mild titillation as the sexy stars go “undercover” in a variety of get-ups. In Full Throttle, they go undercover as beach bunnies, nightclub strippers, motocross racers, and car wash employees. (If you could really get your car washed with three beautiful bikini-clad women strewn across the hood, I’m sure there’s not a guy in America who would ever have a dirty car.) For the ladies, the movies have a distinct “girl power” message, saying that women can be incredibly sexy while still being smart and strong. Some people have objected to the way the films present that message, wondering why the actresses have to put on so many revealing costumes to show feminine strength. I’ve always thought the point of the show (and the movies) was to celebrate all aspects of femininity. Is it really so bad to outsmart a criminal mastermind while still looking hot and/or fashionable?
Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle works because the actresses really seem to believe in the “girl power” message, and they obviously have a blast delivering it. Sometimes I watch movies and feel like the actors are embarrassed to be in them. The exact opposite is true here. Diaz, Barrymore, and Liu look like they are having the time of their lives. That comes across on screen, which makes watching the film such a pleasure. These women are sexy, and they are smart, and they are tough. In a time when movie roles for women are either scarce or shallow, those qualities are worth celebrating.
On similar note, much has been written in advance about the “comeback” of Demi Moore. Early in the film, she goes toe-to-toe in a swimsuit scene with Diaz and proves that she’s still got the goods when it comes to being a movie sex symbol. This was a wise project for her to do. It allows the actress to show that she’s still sexy, but it also gives her a chance to deliver a solid performance that reminds us of her considerable talent. I thought Moore got swallowed up by the fame machine; in pictures like Striptease and GI Jane, she became overly focused on showing how capable she was of sculpting her body in different ways; the performances got lost beneath her physicality. Her work as Madison Lee indicates that Moore might be willing to flex her acting muscles again. This is a small part, but she is perfectly cast as the good-girl-gone-bad.
The director – known only as McG – obviously envisions Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle as an adrenaline rush for the audience. The film never lingers on any one thing for too long, instead bouncing from thing to thing to thing. The pace is break-neck, the visuals are always seductive, and the action scenes are sleek. Music constantly pumps from the soundtrack, further jazzing the crowd up. I think the movie gets a little too over-the-top toward the end (when Madison flies through Los Angeles like Batman), but mostly McG sets the right tone. The film doesn’t take itself too seriously; it is the cinematic equivalent of those “energy drinks.” Watching it, I felt a constant rush of excitement.
Inconsequential though it may be, Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle is a lot of fun. Bernie Mac is very funny and the woman are…well, great. Diaz, Barrymore, and Liu all project tons of charisma and joy up onto that screen. This is playtime for them – a chance to fully embrace their womanhood in a way that knows no boundaries. You get the feeling that they’d be happy doing nothing but making Charlie’s Angels movies for the rest of their careers. As long as that sense of giddy fun continues to fly off the screen, I’ll be happy to watch each and every one of them.
( out of four)
Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle is rated PG-13 for action violence, sensuality and language/innuendo. The running time is 1 hour and 45 minutes.
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