Dan's Review: "Charlie's Angels" reboot is barely good enough for a little fun
Nov 15, 2019 02:18PM
By Dan Metcalf
Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott, and Ella Balinska in Charlie's Angels - © 2019 Sony.
Charlie’s Angels (Sony)
Rated PG-13 for action/violence, language and some suggestive material.
Starring Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott, Ella Balinska, Elizabeth Banks, Djimon Hounsou, Sam Claflin, Noah Centineo, Patrick Stewart, Luis Gerardo Méndez, Jonathan Tucker, Chris Pang, Nat Faxon, Robert Clotworthy (voice).
Written by Elizabeth Banks, Evan Spiliotopoulos, and David Auburn, based on the TV series created by Ivan Goff and Ben Roberts.
Directed by Elizabeth Banks.
When it comes to a film’s true origin, there are all kinds of paths. There are remakes, reboots, sequels, prequels, “re-imaginings,” along with a few other ways to describe the same problem: most films lack originality, and it would be easier to locate a Republican than it would be to find an original idea in Hollywood. Studios have mined so deep into old TV shows for new film material, that they have resorted to making movies based on terrible TV shows. In the case of Charlie’s Angels, the parsimony reaches new levels of desperation, since this weekend’s release is a reboot of a franchise based on an old TV show that (while iconic and highly rated) wasn’t very good (like most TV series from the 1970s).
So, there’s a lot of details about this new generation of “Angels,” or private investigator/spies employed by the Townsend Agency, once owned by the enigmatic Charlie Townsend, a character who only appears as a voice coming from a speakerphone (this time voiced by Robert Clotworthy). In the years following the events of Charlie’s Angels (2000) and Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle (2003), the Townsend Agency has branched out, recruiting and training dozens of “lady spy” operatives, who are handled by multiple “Bosleys,” or middle manager lieutenants in the international organization. The story revolves around two angels and a new recruit tangled in a corporate espionage operation involving a clean energy source that could be exploited as a lethal superweapon. The angels are Sabina (Kristen Stewart) and Jane (Ella Balinska) who are assigned to watch over Elena (Naomi Scott), a scientist who helped develop the energy source. When Elena tries to go around her boss (Matt Faxon) to warn the company’s owner (Sam Clafin). Meanwhile, the original Bosley (Patrick Stewart) has recently retired from the agency, leaving “Edgar” Bosley (Djimon Hounsou) in charge of Jane and Sabina. When Edgar is killed during the first meeting with Elena, “Susan” Bosley (Elizabeth Banks) is left to try and figure out who’s behind the plot exploit the energy source into a weapon of mass destruction. Elena joins with Sabina and Jane to find the mastermind and keep the energy source from falling into the wrong hands. Their adventures lead to hidden schemes and a sinister betrayal, culminating in a confrontation with the mysterious villain.
Charlie’s Angels is a lot of fun, especially when Kristen Stewart is on screen. It’s refreshing to see her comfortable in her own skin, enjoying her work, unlike the early part of her career, when it seemed that she was being forced to perform at gunpoint in the Twilight “saga.” Stewart’s comic timing, screen presence, and physical features are well-matched for the role of a tough, agile, manipulator of men. Newcomer Ella Balinska is equally matched for the role of a tough assassin with a heart of gold, while Naomi Scott does a fine job as the brainy rookie. All this chemistry between the three main characters is anchored by Elizabeth Banks, who also co-wrote and directed the movie.
But all this fun, chemistry and action can take audiences so far. Behind all the glitz, action and crazy stunts (worthy of a Fast and Furious movie) is a weak, cookie-cutter plot and story that often feels tedious. I found myself watching all the expository scenes involving henchmen and secret meetings with a certain amount of anticipation, hoping we could get to the butt-kicking sooner than later.
If it seems like Charlie’s Angels is a 2-hour treatise on “girl power,” I’m pretty sure it’s done on purpose, so…mission accomplished, I guess. While Banks and her crew don’t seem to be trying to win points for subtlety, Charlie’s Angels makes up for the obvious by having a little fun in the meantime.
"Charlie's Angels" Trailer