Charlie’s Angels

"And that's kicking your ass!"

Charlie’s Angels is a secret agent flick, but not really. It wants to be a comedy, an homage, a throwback, a martial arts extravaganza and a parody of exploitation pictures of the past. It succeeds in being all of those things, but it’s not a movie. It just isn’t. A virtual big-budget explosion? Yes. A spectacle of three great actresses making fools of themselves? Sure. MTV-worthy martial arts monages that shamelessly rip off The Matrix? Yessireebob. But a movie? No. Not for an instant.

I’ve never seen the old tv show on which this is based on, but if it was anything like this, I can’t imagine how it sustained itself for more than one episode. Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz and Lucy Liu play three gorgeous young women in slutty clothes employed by a private detective agency (run by the mysterious Charlie) as double agents sent on the most dangerous and impossible assignments. Their mission this time: to retrieve some sort of voice recognition software allegedly stolen from computer geek boy Eric Knox (Sam Rockwell). Their main suspect is the very, very evil Roger Corwin (Tim Curry). We know he’s evil, you see, because he hangs out at sinisterly expensive-looking spas and enjoys getting massages.

There will be some controversy, I’m sure, as to whether Charlie’s Angels is making fun of exploitation films or is one itself. Hard to say. We get hints that the film, directed by music video vet McG, is winking at us from the corners of the screen, but at the same time it’s a little too gleeful about coming as close as possible to showing the Angels naked while maintaining a PG-13 rating.

Now, I’m only human. I enjoy seeing Lucy Liu naked as much as any red-blooded American male. But when the film’s sole purpose is to have her dress as skimpily as possible, it puts Charlie’s Angels precariously close to soft-core porn.

To make things worse, the villain is a bore. The bad guy’s real identity is supposed to be a big revelation but will be obvious from the very beginning to anyone with an IQ above the screenwriters (i.e. everyone). When he’s revealed, he’s still a bore with no personality. He doesn’t seem particularly menacing and the actor who plays him fails to suffuse him with the wackiness a villain in a movie like this requires.

The three leads are good, I suppose, though there are no opportunities for them to act, aside from the high kicks and dangerous-looking stunts. Luke Wilson, who must have been in desperate need of a paycheck, inexplicably shows up as Cameron Diaz’s charming boyfriend who isn’t aware of her real occupation. And Bill Murray is capable of injecting some life into this misbegotten project, though he looks embarrased to be associated with it.

I’d like to think that America’s male population has evolved past being entertained by exploitative schlock like Charlie’s Angels. It’s a given that the typical Hollywood “action movie” won’t require a brain to watch, but it would be nice to think that they required a brain to make. Charlie’s Angels is a product of Hollywood’s movie mill and a sub-par one at that.

-- Eugene Novikov

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Screening Log

Snitch

Ric Roman Waugh, 2013

Score: C

Side Effects

Steven Soderbergh, 2013

Score: C+

10 Years

Jamie Linden, 2012

Score: B-

The Place Beyond the Pines

Derek Cianfrance, 2013

Score: B+

Warm Bodies

Jonathan Levine, 2013

Score: C

Beautiful Creatures

Richard LaGravanese, 2013

Score: B-

The Window

Ted Tetzlaff, 1949

Score: B+

The Chase

Arthur Ripley, 1946

Score: B

Street of Chance

Jack Hively, 1942

Score: C

The Taste of Money

Im Sang-Soo, 2013

Score: C+

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