by Greg Muskewitz
The key to making Charlie’s Angels work for you is all in the mindset. I don’t quite know what I was expecting before I saw the movie, but I admit I was somewhat disappointed with the publicity stills where they all seem to be so posed, artificial and overly campy. With each successive photo, the trio of bodice young women –Drew Barrymore, Lucy Liu and Cameron Diaz—continued growing more and more chic. More and more ridiculous. And then came the movie.The opening sequence is an elaborate long shot that focuses on the boarding of a plan, the meeting of two questionable characters, the detection of a bomb and the subsequent riddance of it along with the carrier and one of the Angels in disguise as LL Cool J in a loud orange dashiki.
"No word suits it better than fun."
To no surprise, the other two Angels are down below, waiting to finish the mission. Then we get the party-rock-‘n-rolling opening credits sequence and are properly introduced to our modern angels, Dylan (Barrymore), Alex (Liu) and Natalie (Diaz) –and, of course, Bosley (Bill Murray).
However modern, judging from the accouterment of everyone, the setting and lingo all tends to be stuck back in the ‘70s. The Angels’ new mission is to find the kidnapped tech-big wig Eric Knox (Sam Rockwell), who looks like a younger, nerdier Austin Powers. With the development of a new gadget in the wrong hands, possibly the competitor in tech development (run by a sleazy Tim Curry), the goods must be found, or –oh no! the world could be in danger!!!
The story and mystery itself is no hard piece of detective work, but it’s the fun along the way that counts most here. It’s as simple as Mission: Impossible II, or the first, The Avengers, Inspector Gadget, The Mod Squad, The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle, and Wild Wild West (but way too simple as compared to The Fugitive or Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me), but what makes it so conducive, is it gives us what we want –and it’s a whole lot of fun.
There’s a great mixture of tongue-in-cheek/self-referential humor, slapstick, action, stunts, and bodies to get you into it. Charlie’s Angels is another case of not taking itself too seriously, and therefore without imposing on the audience, it flows real well. The action is a mix of The Matrix with a dash of visual style as seen in The Cell. Like The Cell, which was directed by Tarsem Singh, Charlie’s Angels was also directed by a former music-video director, McG. Singh’s vision and arrangement seemed less video minded, but more stylistically inclined, whereas McG treats it all as if it were one long dance and music fest, making sure to incorporate plenty of pop songs along the way.
But don’t take that as a bad sign, because that’s what makes it what it is. The action was great and nicely choreographed. If I were ever to make an action movie, this is much the way, visually, that I would do it, especially the first fight scene between the Angels and "the Thin Man" (Crispin Glover). Charlie’s Angels is very involving in the sense that you really like the tune it’s playing to, and want to get into it even further. Like playing a certain song on repeat.
I was only a little kid when the re-runs were on for the show, and I honestly don’t remember anything about it. No worries, for if you have no background with this, the movie nicely gives an introduction and factitious "normal" lives for the ladies to live. The cast is par excellence and nicely divvied to three of today’s hotter and enjoyable female leads. Barrymore is cute and joyful. Her red winish hair and hip wardrobe have her as the sensible brains of the crew. Barrymore's character is probably the least developed, but the she and the character never forget to emanate her strong appeal. Liu is the brainiac and technical wizard, but none look as sleek and poised as she does. Liu still resembles something from her dominatrix role in Payback, but in both instances, these roles seem far too easy for her. I’d really like to see a challenge along the lines of her skillfulness like in Ally McBeal, because stuff like Shanghai Noon isn’t cutting it. Diaz also looks great –maybe the best in her career yet. She’s a happy ditz, cheerful and exuberant all the way, and she too is a joy to watch as she is dressed in the skimpiest, choicest clothing (I loved the Spider Man underware!). The three girls are like bait for some soft-core teasing –it’s really quite amusing.
Murray was fun, limitedly so, but for the time he was there, he was a kick. Rockwell had a bigger part than expected, and he too knows how to have fun with the goofy material. Matt LeBlanc, Tom Green and Luke Wilson also surface when needed for some unique supporting roles.
McG makes sure to positively pump up the energy and make this into a spectacle show. He has a keen eye for what looks good, whether it’s the production design, clothing, his actors, the action, etc., but his employed camerawork, and the cinematography by Russell Carpenter is very impressive. Through the compositions and long shots, skilled effects (never overdone), and smooth editing, McG warrants himself some compliments, but it also proves that this isn’t just some slap-together budget piece, but rather a movie that was nicely composed from all angles. It was better than I thought it would be. I can’t say much for his name, but it gives me something to look forward to.
So for now it seems as though the video directors aren’t doing so bad. Singh is probably my favorite, but both McG and Spike Jonze (Being John Malkovich) both have shown some signs of serious proficiency in the filmmaking business. McG’s is the least cinematic as far as all the corners go (story is a big issue, but this is all in fun anyway) as juxtaposed with the other two, but that leaves a large possibility and lots of hope for whatever is next. (The story is co-written by John August, who penned last year’s "hip," but rockin’ Go. Also written by Ryan Rowe and Ed Solomon.)Final Verdict: A-.
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=1819&reviewer=172
originally posted: 11/04/00 06:35:38