NOW PLAYING - Charlie's Angels

Posted: Sunday, November 05, 2000

Beautiful girl walking away. Freeze. She turns her head, tossing her perfect hair and flashing her perfect smile. Freeze. Now strike a karate pose! That about sums up the very silly, yet somehow very charming remake of that bastion of seventies TV excellence, Charlie's Angels.

The movie begins with a character on a plane complaining about the inflight screening of TJ Hooker - The Movie. "Great. Another movie from an old TV show." That's about what I thought when I heard that they were making a big screen version of Charlie's Angels. Why? This is going through my head when, all at once, they turn up the tempo. Suddenly, things are moving at a hundred miles an hour and Angels keeps up the pace 'til the end. I felt like I was sitting in a summer blockbuster. After all, this is the kind of movie typically sandwiched somewhere between the Tom Cruise Megablockbuster and the Will Smith Superblowout. Instead, Angels producers have it competing against Robert Redford's golf epic The Legend of Bagger Vance and the random-act-of-kindness weeper Pay it Forward. I'd have to say that this is a good move. People are going to flock to a silly explosion fest to try to balance out the emotion-filled fall schedule.

I think what really makes this movie work is the fact that it is silly. It doesn't take itself seriously at all, and that makes it very hard to criticize. For example, it's easy to lambaste Kevin Costner's The Postman for not making any sense and for having lots of hokey lines that no one would ever, in a million years, utter. Assessing The Postman this way shows that you are a discerning moviegoer with high standards. Well, Charlie's Angels doesn't make any sense and there are some pretty bad lines, but to fault such a happy-go-lucky movie for that just makes you sound grouchy and mean-spirited. It seems pointless to even mention that there is no way these girls could detect their way out of a paper bag, let alone find their way around a mysterious computer theft/kidnapping case. Every thing about this film says "Hey, this is all just a good time. Sit back, and don't sweat the small stuff." So you do. I didn't really want to see this movie. A corny T&A movie based on a corny T&A series? Who needs it? But, I swear, you can't help but have fun.

The Angels are made up of Cameron Diaz, Lucy Liu, and Drew Barrymore, who also produced. An early problem for the production arose when Drew, an anti-gun advocate declared that the Angels would not use firearms of any kind, leading to those ridiculous posters of the girls in full Judo-Chop mode. I was afraid that this plot element would prove clunky and obvious, but, to be honest, you never even notice it. The fight scenes are very exciting and, even though the film borrows heavily from The Matrix, pretty original. The three received extensive martial arts training prior to filming, and it shows. Cameron and Drew are just fine in their respective roles, but it's Lucy Liu who steals the show. Liu, who you may recognize from Ally McBeal, has been doing small roles in films for a few years now (Payback, Shanghai Noon, Play it to the Bone), but may be ready for her own starring role. Rounding out the cast are Bill Murray as Bosley, who gets to have fun acting goofy, Tim Curry in another typically broad villain role, and Sam Rockwell as an enigmatic software designer. Rockwell has been good in everything I've seen him in so far (The Green Mile, Galaxy Quest) and I look for him to become a bigger star in the future.

You might expect that, knowing the TV show, this movie would be inappropriate for kids. Surprisingly, that's not true. They keep the language to a minimum, and while it's suggestive, there is no real nudity and no sex. It's kind of violent, but with a total lack of gore. I'm sure little kids wouldn't really get it, but I would think you could be completely comfortable sending your teens to it. I'm sure the grouchy critics out there wish it had more language, sex, and violence. That, at least would be something solid you could complain about. About the only half-way valid criticism I can think of is the question of whether this movie needed to be made at all. Is there a need for anymore old TV show turned movies? I don't really know. But while you're pondering it, remember not to let your popcorn get cold. Grade: B

Charlie's Angels is rated PG-13 for mild language, violence, and a few suggestive scenes.

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