Sartre said, “Hell is other people,” to which I’d like to add:
It’s no picnic watching movies based on dumb TV shows either, pal.
“Charlie’s Angels” was a mediocre entry in the “Jiggle TV” genre of the 1970s and 1980s, famous mostly for catapulting Farrah Fawcett to pin-up stardom. Next came the movies: “Charlie’s Angels” (2000), which was slick and cynical and terribly unfunny, and “Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle” (2003), which managed to be even worse.
Now comes writer-director-actor Elizabeth Banks’ reboot of the franchise, and while it wouldn’t be fair to call it a “hellish” experience, it is a frothy, ridiculous and entirely unnecessary piece of work.
Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott and Ella Balinska play well off one another, and they look great while zipping around the world and kicking butt to the sounds of light techno-pop music — but wouldn’t it be nice if they were in a vehicle that required them to do more than exchange pseudo-snappy banter, try on lots of outfits and then step aside for the doubles to do the heavy lifting in a stunt-heavy story with a warmed-over plot?
I mean, how many times are we going to see an action comedy/drama with everyone in pursuit of a miraculous scientific breakthrough that could change the world — but can also be (wait for it) … WEAPONIZED!?!?!
This “Charlie’s Angels” adventure is actually a sequel to the TV series AND the previous movies, as evidenced by some mildly clever nods to previous Angels aka investigators working for the elite Townsend Detective Agency.
Charles Townsend (originally voiced by the late John Forsythe) is heard but never seen. His conduit to the Angels is a middleman named Bosley — but as we learn at the outset of this new adventure, the Townsend Agency has gone global, and literally dozens of agents now use the pseudonym “Bosley” while overseeing various assignments.
The opening set piece features Kristen Stewart’s Sabina Wilson engaged in a heavy-handed, battle-of-the-sexes exchange with the arrogant playboy Jonny Smith (Chris Pang).
He thinks it goes against nature for women to have “manly” jobs like fixing cars. She believes women can do anything — which she proves by apprehending the corrupt Johnny and his hapless Movie Henchmen (with quite a bit of help from Ella Balinska’s Jane).
After a surprise retirement party for the original John Bosley (Patrick Stewart), Elizabeth Banks’ Bosley assigns Sabina and Jane to work together on a case involving a multi-billion-dollar tech company’s breakthrough invention, which can provide enough energy to literally power the world — but also can be, yes, weaponized, and turned into an unstoppable tool of destruction.
Naomi Scott (Princess Jasmine in the reboot of “Aladdin,” which was only slightly more fantastical than this adventure) plays Elena, an adorably clumsy scientist who has gone rogue from the company and might be the only one that can stop the evil corporate bad guys from selling the energy-device-killing-thingy to the highest bidder. She gets dragged along on the caper, mostly because the movie needs a potential third Angel to complete the trio.
The adventure takes the Angels to international locales such as Istanbul and Berlin, where they don costumes and wigs and disguises (Stewart’s Sabina goes undercover as a thoroughbred jockey at one point, I kid you not), and rely on cleverness and lethal fighting skills to narrowly dodge death at every turn while beating up (or even killing) the bad guys.
All while cracking wise.
You can see the big twist coming an hour in advance. And the big epic showdown is resolved in a manner that defies even the most cursory of examinations. There’s something almost depressing about how often this movie takes the easy, lazy way out.
Other than money, why does Hollywood keep on making movies based on nostalgia TV? Have we learned nothing from “The A-Team,” “Alvin and the Chipmunks,” “Baywatch,” “The Beverly Hillbillies,” “Bewitched,” “The Dukes of Hazzard,” “The Flintstones,” “The Honeymooners,” “Lost in Space,” “Maverick,” “S.W.A.T.” and so many other film adaptations?
Granted, there are a handful as good as or better than the television inspirations. (“The Fugitive” and “Mission: Impossible” immediately come to mind.)
But in those cases, there was rich and promising material to be found in the original source material. The only way you’re going to make something memorable out of something like “Charlie’s Angels” is to toss out everything but the title and build from there.