Two Cents is an original column akin to a book club for films. The Cinapse team will program films and contribute our best, most insightful, or most creative thoughts on each film using a maximum of 200 words each. Guest writers and fan comments are encouraged, as are suggestions for future entries to the column. Join us as we share our two cents on films we love, films we are curious about, and films we believe merit some discussion.
Despite only running for a solid-but-not-spectacular five seasons, Charlie’s Angels has managed to endure in pop culture memory longer than it has any right to. Partially this is due to the meteoric rise of first season-only star Farrah Fawcett, and partially this is due to the same kind of syndication deals that kept Mission: Impossible around.
Or maybe it’s down to the strange, gimmicky perfection of Charlie’s set-up: Three women, undervalued and underappreciated in their efforts to be a part of law enforcement, are recruited by a mysterious private investigator, ‘Charlie’, who communicates solely through a speakerphone as he assigns the girls new missions.
One of those people falling in love with the series through syndication was a young Drew Barrymore, who as an adult decided to revive the series with herself, Cameron Diaz, and Lucy Liu as a new generation of ‘Angels’. Charlie’s Angels debuted in 2000 at the tail end of the ’90s fixation on reviving old TV hits for either sincere continuation (the aforementioned Mission: Impossible, The Addams Family) or cheeky parodies of yesterday’s culture (the various Brady Bunch movies). As directed by music video auteur McG, Charlie’s Angels was a little bit of both, embracing camp and silliness while also at least paying lip service to the kind of emotional grounding you expect from a film.
The sequel, Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, doesn’t even bother paying lip service. A live action cartoon that combines physics-shattering action with musical numbers, wacky sitcom antics, Bruce Willis, and just about every pop culture whim that occurred to McG to stuff in.
The results baffled America, and while Full Throttle did turn a profit internationally, this proved to be the end of the line for the Angels. For a while, and then they were revived for a new TV series, which was cancelled, and now again, this weekend with a new film directed by Elizabeth Banks.
You can’t keep a good Angel down, it seems.
Next Week’s Pick
Let’s watch Nazis get fucked up.
Overlord is now streaming on Amazon Prime.
Would you like to be a guest in next week’s Two Cents column? Simply watch and send your under-200-word review to twocents(at)cinapse.co anytime before midnight on Thursday!
Brendan Agnew (The Norman Nerd):
The Charlie’s Angels movies of the early ’00s were the kind of films I used to classify as “guilty pleasures,” back before I stopped giving a damn about justifying my goofy taste. But even then, I agreed with the accepted wisdom that the first film was fairly solid (if campy), the second was full-on bad.
Whoops, I was wrong.
Now, I’m not gonna sit here and say that Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle is “good,” but it’s definitely astounding. Where the first was a comedic bubblegum high gloss action movie, Full Throttle opens like the previous movie did several lines of cocaine and then set itself on fire on a dare. After kicking off with something like 3 James Bond openings all rolled into one, this thing free falls through aesthetics and references and deliberate homages to the previous two decades of the genre. A Raiders of the Lost Ark riff is filmed with the color saturation and orange/teal intensity that even Michael Bay had only just begun to turn to 11, “Matrix shots” occur during extreme sport/stunt races out of The Fast and the Furious (back when the series was about racing), and there’s a lot of real estate devoted to all but literally name-dropping the Mission: Impossible films (“another movie from an old TV show”), particularly the second one.
Which, in retrospect, feels like calling their shot in a weird way. And it’s fun as hell watching them swing. And there are some shockingly solid ideas along the way. In addition to more obvious cameos (Bruce Willis, Jaclyn Smith, the Olsen Twins), there’s some clever stunt casting — like having Robert “The T-1000” Patrick only to *not* do exactly the sort of villain role you’d expect. There’s also a shade of something genuinely interesting that you see threatening to emerge from Demi Moore’s ex-angel Madison Lee, before the film trips over its single-minded desire to only be funny and exciting as well as mildly titillating.
And then there’s whatever Justin Theroux’s accent is supposed to be.
If you’ve ever known that heady mixture of cackling delight and vague “I need a shower soon” from a terrific good-bad anime episode, Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle feels like that was fed a bunch of sugar and then cooked in a spoon. And yes, that’s mostly meant as a compliment. (@BLCAgnew)
Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle remains the silliest movie imaginable and I do love it so. We were only a couple years away from Christopher Nolan bringing grime to Batman and all of movie-dom eagerly following in that path for a while, a trend we’ve only recently begun to fully shift away from. So I can’t help but adore this candy-colored lunacy, with its starry-eyed enthusiasm for each fresh bit of wacky that it comes up with. Barrymore, Liu, and especially Diaz all know the tone they need to hit and they attack it with full gusto. Diaz in particular appears to be completely in sync with the tone McG is going for, turning herself into a live-action cartoon unbound from anything even remotely connected to human behavior.
And while I understand why all this is a bit…much, and certainly the film does prove exhausting as it continues, Full Throttle is so cheerfully aware of its own excess that I can’t fault it. McG wisely invokes the imagery of classic musicals, at one point having the Angels recreate the couch-step from Singin’ in the Rain. With moments like that, Full Throttle pledges allegiance to Technicolor and Old Hollywood magic. This may represent the end-line for a particularly ’90s form of blockbuster, but I wouldn’t mind at least a little of that pixie dust getting sprayed on the modern landscape. (@TheTrueBrendanF)
“Better than I remember” seems to be the common refrain, and that’s at least partially because Full Throttle arrived just as its adrenalized, over-the-top, physics-defying style was becoming unfashionable. Sometimes you can see things more clearly in a rear-view mirror.
That’s not to give a full pardon. The script is incoherent, the CGI and digital compositing are frightfully garish, and the returning Thin Man’s character arc is completely flubbed.
But with its dedication to being so extremely extreme, and a genuine sense of warmth and joy that director McG very consciously tried to infuse the franchise, there really is something here. And besides the still wonderful trio of Liu, Barrymore, and Diaz, there’s a cavalcade of great character actors and cameos, especially beloved personalities who have passed on — Bernie Mac, Robert Forster, and the voice Charlie himself, John Forsythe. This movie is a mess, but at this point I just appreciate the good parts. (@Austin Vashaw)
Hit the link below to read Austin’s full review of the new Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle Blu-ray.
Next week’s pick:
Overlord (streaming on Amazon Prime)