After months of alleged production delays, casting and script problems, and
endless rumors of on-set arguments, "Charlie's Angels," a big-screen
adaptation of the cult '76-'81 television series (starring Jaclyn Smith and
Farrah Fawcett, among others), seemed doomed for catastrophic failure. After
all, when was the last time we saw a TV-show-turned-feature-film that was
worthwhile, particularly when the budget was an overblown $90-million?
Moreover, the terrible teaser trailer, with the three lead actresses
performing their martial arts moves in front of a fiery background, was not
exactly cause to break out the champagne glasses.
Imagine, then, the delightful surprise of watching the finished product and
gradually realizing that I haven't had this much fun at the movies all year.
In a nutshell, "Charlie's Angels" is an unequivocal success--a highly
entertaining, funny, exciting, no-holds-barred, bubblegum triumph of the way
to make a great action-comedy, as well as a rambunctious female empowerment
Tough-girl Dylan (Drew Barrymore), sexy sweetheart Natalie (Cameron Diaz),
and ultra-intelligent Alex (Lucy Liu) are Charlie's Angels: a trio of strong
young women who work for mystery millionaire Charlie (voiced by John Forsythe
and never seen) and his personal assistant Bosley (Bill Murray) to keep the
world safe from nasty villains and megalomaniacs. Their latest mission is to
rescue an electronics genius by the name of Knox (Sam Rockwell), who has been
kidnapped by wealthy thief Roger Corwin (Tim Curry) and his silent henchman
A comedic rendition of the countless James Bond flicks--only twenty times
more fun and original--"Charlie's Angels" is not so much about its thin
storyline as it is about the refreshingly lightweight style which feature
film debut director McG (whose previous credits include several music videos)
evokes. From the stunning opening sequence that begins on an airplane and
ends on a sailboat, to the climax set around an ancient castle alongside the
California coast, director McG clearly knows exactly how to balance all of
his various genres, including action, comedy, and romance, for optimum
effect. The movie is far-fetched, yet so shamelessly tongue-in-cheek as to
never seem anything less than innocently believable.
If there was ever any on-set strife between the cast members, you won't find
any signs of it here. Each actor finds just the perfect tone for their
character, and they all elicit an overwhelming joy of performing.
Actress-producer Drew Barrymore (1999's "Never Been Kissed") has found in her
character of Dylan a chance to show off her comic flair to a greater effect
than she ever has before. Cameron Diaz (1999's "Being John Malkovich"), as
Natalie, is hilariously klutzy, yet smart, and has a smile so warm and
beautiful that she sells every moment she appears here. Rounding out the
angels is Lucy Liu (2000's "Shanghai Noon"), as streetwise Alex, who provides
a welcome contrast to her tonally sunnier costars, and equips herself in her
kung-fu-style action sequences quite nicely. Together, Barrymore, Diaz, and
Liu are charismatic joys who obviously had just as much fun making the film
as it is to watch it.
Adding an extra amount of amusement to the proceedings is the constant stream
of costume changes the actresses goes through, as they head undercover posing
in different disguises. There is particular entertainment to be had in a
sequence in which Barrymore and Diaz crossdress, while the leather-clad,
whip-striking Liu poses as a dominatrix-cum-efficiency-expert and bewitches
every student in the class.
The supporting cast is appropriately over-the-top, and all the more enjoyable
because of it. Bill Murray (1998's "Rushmore") returns to his purely jokey
roots with Bosley, and makes a big impression with a not-so-large role. Sam
Rockwell (1999's "The Green Mile") is lively and magnetic as the kidnapped
Knox; Tim Curry is at his slimy best as Roger Corwin; and Tom Green (2000's
"Road Trip"), Matt LeBlanc (TV's "Friends"), and Luke Wilson (1999's "Blue
Streak") are effective as the gals' love interests.
Special notice must be made to Crispin Glover (2000's "Nurse Betty"), whose
brooding role as The Thin Man is one of the most memorably nasty and
appropriately animated villains to come around in years. Watch Glover
closely; he doesn't have one line of dialogue throughout, but simply by the
drifty way in which he carries himself and smokes his cigarettes, as if he
were a famed magician performing his most popular trick, does he create a
wholly fresh and despicably enjoyable character.
With sunny, attractive cinematography; fast-paced editing; a sharply clever
screenplay by Ryan Rowe, Ed Solomon, and John August; a standout soundtrack
that wittily includes innumerable songs featuring the word, "angel," in them,
as well as a nice mixture of music from the '70s, '80s, '90s, and the present
day; and awesome stunts not matched since last summer's "Mission: Impossible
2," "Charlie's Angels" is a film that is unquestionably better than it has
any right to be. The movie makes no halfhearted effort to be anything more
than a happily diverting popcorn film, and by doing so, exceeds the viewer's
highest expectations. By being unpretentious in the extreme, it is the most
invigorating thing that has happened to the action genre in the last decade.
"Charlie's Angels" is F-U-N, the type of movie the term, 'rollicking good
time,' was invented for.
Copyright © 2000 Dustin Putman