Charlie’s Angels

Fox Force 3

Not long ago, the TVLand channel ran a ten day marathon, showing all 109 episodes of the fluffy 1970s series Charlie’s Angels at least once – two or three times if bikinis were involved. I didn’t think much of the series on first run, but seeing the reruns made me appreciate just how cheap, goofy and fun this Spelling production was, and why it became such a hit. But if you took all ten days of that marathon and condensed them into a feature film, it still wouldn’t be quite as much fun as this new movie remake/sequel.

Drew Barrymore deserves all the props for this project, as her Flower Films produced it and pushed through her vision of the project. She also joins the fun starring as redheaded Dylan, the group’s ex-punk “ass kicker”. Romantic interest: Sam Rockwell (Galaxy Quest, The Green Mile) as computer geek/kidnap victim Knox, and Tom Green as the doltish “Chad” (the movie’s sole sour note). Aside from her work behind the scenes, Barrymore also instills her character with a depth and confidence lacking in her recent “girl next door” roles.

She’s joined by Cameron Diaz as ditzy blonde genius Natalie, who enjoys dancing like a spaz, driving extremely fast, and has an encyclopedic knowledge of trivia. Natalie is the group’s innocent, smiling widely and shaking her beautiful ass at the camera for the sheer joy of it. Romantic interest: Luke Wilson (Scream 2) as Steve the bartender, who wins over Natalie by taking her to a taping of Soul Train.

Lucy Lui is the third Angel, gadgetry expert Alex. Though all three Angels display incredible martial arts chops recalling Hong Kong flicks like Heroic Trio and the In the Line of Duty series, Lui actually already had a kung fu resume (see Shanghai Noon) when she signed on. She also gets to display her panther with a whip personality familiar to viewers of Ally McBiell. Romantic interest: an uncredited Matt LeBlanc as an action movie star.

Aside from the ever unseen John Forsythe as the voice of the enigmatic millionaire Charie Townshend, the group is rounded out by the always welcome Bill Murray as the girls’ supervisor John Bosley.

The series standard features are all lovingly lampooned and celebrated at the same time, similar to the way Betty Thomas (also an executive producer here) did it in her Brady Bunch movies. Layered on top of this frivolity is a heavy frosting of Hong Kong style action, rendered with a generous Hollywood budget recalling The Matrix and Mission: Impossible 2. It’s like all the Aces Go Places movies, only with gorgeous chicks and funnier gags.

An example: the movie begins with one of the team (disguised as Ice-T!) grabbing a terrorist and jumping out of a jet plane. No doubt all left behind in the plane were killed during decompression — but hey, there’s Cameron Diaz in a bikini! Now what was I thinking about?

Barrymore was concerned that the movie didn’t turn into a big gunfight, and so went the kung fu route in a big way, with even villain Crispin Glover (as “The Thin Man”) getting into the act. Bet Tim Curry breathed a sigh of relief when he got his script and found at he wouldn’t have to get into the chop-socky, too. Glover’s appearance is a big surprise – we haven’t seen him on the big screen since 1996 in The People Vs. Larry Flint, but the guy is working in half a dozen pictures now.

Another big winner from this project will be director Joseph McGinty Mitchell, who bills himself as “McG” and makes his feature debut here after a successful run as a music video director (a pool which seems to be the next stop after Ridley Scott when producers are looking to hire directors for big budget features these days). McG gives every shot a little dazzle, from gratuitous slo-mo hair flips to quick back-and-forth zooms to include pertinent details. Plus, the whole film is covered with great rock music (including a funky version of the Godzilla theme), so he’s in his element.

Charlie’s Angels is big dumb fun at its best, a welcome relief from a (so far) disappointing year at the movies. Let’s have a sequel where the girls fight hopping vampires!

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