Now Playing: Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle

Posted: Monday, June 30, 2003

I think it can be generally agreed upon that summer is a time to relax. Sit back, eat some junk food, and wile the days away watching a good movie, waiting for the inevitable return of winter and responsibility. Something easy, something mindless, something pre-packaged and easy to swallow. Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle is just such a movie and, while this simple summer entertainment is certainly attractive, what are we giving up by submitting to this lackadaisical attitude? Maybe nothing. Done well, silly and simple can be relatively creative. Done poorly, it becomes just another stepping stone on the road to mediocrity.

The first Charlie's Angels was easy and fun, and its free-wheeling spirit seemed more unique at the time than lazy. The plot of the sequel is just as mindless as the first, three female super-agents in the persons of Cameron Diaz, Lucy Liu, and Drew Barrymore, fight crime and save the innocent, all while managing to look sexy and little-girl cute all at the same time, but this time around much of the whimsy is lost. The first film sets us up to realize that these are really just three fun-loving girls out to have a good time, stolen communications satellites and rocket launchers aside. We're not really worried about imminent death, we're worried that Diaz's Natalie won't be able to get a date, or that Liu's boyfriend will find out she's not really a bikini waxer. In Full Throttle, the ante is upped. Now we're worried about larger themes of friendship, loneliness, loyalty, and marriage. With this heavier baggage, the silliness is gone and the total lack of creativity and believability is painfully obvious. By attempting to tackle weightier material, Full Throttle totally undermines the only thing it had going for it: a cheesy, devil-may-care attitude that, in fact, made the original much more than the sum of its parts.

Though this film is little more than a stale confection, it has one element of note: the return to big budget films of ex-superstar Demi Moore. After the 1990s failures of G.I. Jane and Striptease, Moore removed herself to her Idaho home and only returned to the screen once in the little-seen indie Passion of the Mind. Though she was the biggest star in the world at one time, one of a very few female actors to be paid as much or more than her male counterparts, she is proof that fame is fleeting. Whether her return as a villainous ex-Angel will pay off remains to be seen, but she was a welcome addition to an otherwise blah outing at the movies. Also new to the cast are Bernie Mac as the new Bosley, (he's Bill Murray's brother), and Justin Theroux as an evil ex-boyfriend of Barrymore's Dylan.

Soapbox time. I realize that movies are an advertiser's dream. A captive audience for two hours. You can do product placement, incorporate a product into your plot, or even make a whole movie that is little more than an extended ad (XXX anyone?) I accept this as inevitable and relatively harmless, but I draw the line at commercials before the film. In essence, by packing the first part of the movie with ads for Coke and Sprite and Chevy and the Army, I am paying to be advertised to. Would you pay a salesman to try to sell you a product? Of course not, but that's what we are doing every time we go to a movie. Now, the previews are a different matter, at least for me. I usually love the coming attractions, and they have a long history at the movies. Sure, maybe I've seen the Bad Boys II preview a hundred times, but I don't really mind. Even the previews, however, can get excessive. I bring this up because at the screening of Charlie's Angels I went to, there is close to 45 minutes of stuff to watch before the movie ever begins. Three-quarters of an hour. The showing was scheduled for 12:15, and at 12:55, the opening credits finally began. When my wife complained to the theater workers, their attitude was basically one of "eh, who cares?" They may be forced to care very soon. There is an increasingly vocal and angry bunch of people who object to the way we are forced to sit through advertisements at the movie, some even engaging in lawsuits to force theater companies to publish times as to the actual time the movie will begin, as opposed to simply when the film starts rolling through projector. Up until today I had been on the fence on this issue. I really love the coming attractions, as I said, and I would hate to miss them because I was trying to count backward from the published time in the paper. But 45 minutes just sent me over the edge. It's greed, pure and simple, and it's going to come back to bite.

Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle is kind of cute and funny, with easy jokes and mindless action. There's nothing to think about, indeed thinking too deeply is detrimental to the experience. It's also kind of boring and pointless, with little of the innocent charm of the first film. Sorry Charlie, I think these angels may have flown as high as their going to. Grade: C+

Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle is rated PG-13 for violence and sexual innuendo.

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