Should I Watch..? 'Charlie's Angel: Full Throttle'
What's the big deal?
Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle is an action comedy film released in 2003 and is loosely based on the seventies TV series of the same name created by Ivan Goff and Ben Roberts. It is a sequel to the 2000 film Charlie's Angels and sees the girls unite once again to investigate a series of murders after the theft of a Witness Protection database. The film stars Cameron Diaz, Lucy Liu and Drew Barrymore who reprise their roles as well as Crispin Glover, Demi Moore, Robert Patrick, Bernie Mac and Justin Theroux. It also features appearances by two stars of the original show - John Forsythe and Jaclyn Smith. Despite global takings of over $259 million, the film received a more mixed reaction from critics. It would go on to earn seven nominations at that year's Razzie Award ceremony and would put the film series on hiatus until another reboot, also called Charlie's Angels, which is scheduled for release in late 2019.
What's it about?
After the successful rescue of a US Marshal in Mongolia, the Angels (Dylan, Natalie and Alex) return to the States where John Bosley's adopted brother Jimmy Bosley has a new assignment for them. They are to recover a top secret project known as HALO, a series of titanium rings that can display the names of those in Witness Protection, which were stolen from the Department Of Justice. When people start turning up dead, the Angels link the murders to the theft and pursue the assassin to a beach near San Bernardino where they not only learn his identity - Randy Emmers - but also reunite with former Angel Madison Lee.
At a motocross event, Emmers is killed by the Thin Man while attempting to assassinate another target - Max Petroni, an orphaned teenager. The girls discover a photo on Emmers of previous victims, Max and Dylan under her real name of Helen Zaas. Dylan confides that she is living under Witness Protection after her testimony helped convict her former boyfriend, Irish mob boss Seamus O'Grady. It soon emerges that O'Grady is out of prison and intent on getting revenge on those who wronged him, forcing Dylan to leave the Angels for their safety while Alex and Natalie are forced to go it alone to help save their colleague.
Dylan Sanders / Helen Zaas
Charles "Charlie" Townsend (voice)
John August, Cormac & Marianne Wibberley*
Release Date (UK)
4th July, 2003
Worst Supporting Actress (Moore), Worst Remake or Sequel
Razzie Award Nominations
Worst Film, Worst Actress (Barrymore), Worst Actress (Diaz), Worst Screenplay, Worst Excuse For A Movie (All Concept & No Content)
What's to like?
Given that you've probably already noticed the one-star score above, you'll expect me to be scathing about this film. But Full Throttle does have some things I did enjoy, starting with Bernie Mac who is miles better than Bill Murray was in the first film and looks considerably less uncomfortable. It was also good to see Demi Moore again in a movie, looking just as sexy and vibrant as her younger co-stars. The soundtrack isn't as annoying as I thought it might be while the film has a plethora of cameos from all sorts of celebrities from stars like John Cleese (who clearly only saw a paycheck before signing on) and Bruce Willis, singers like Pink and the Pussycat Dolls and even famed Romanian gymnastics coach Béla Károlyi. Have fun trying to spot them all! At least there's no Tom Green this time so that's another plus.
The film has the same vacant spirit and brightness as the first film, making it feel like an enormous load of candyfloss being shoved down your throat. The action scenes, mostly implausible kung-fu and Matrix-style slow motion, feels just as ridiculous as before. Having never watched the original show, I can't honestly claim to know if the film's sunshine-and-rainbows disposition matches it. It feels more like a tribute to the show rather than a revival, much the same as the first show. The film works hard to include any comedy in the movie - much of it comes from the girl's pretty poor use of disguises (I've seen better costumes at a fancy dress party) and the rest from Mac who reminds us how funny he was before his untimely passing in 2008.
- Carrie Fisher's appearance as the Mother Superior was a reference to her appearance in The Blues Brothers. In that film, the Mother Superior (played by Kathleen Freeman) asks the boys to move their desks forward which they do by staying in their seats and scooting forward - the same way the girls do in this film.
- During the fight at the warehouse, the song 'Firestarter' by the Prodigy is playing while Dylan improvises a flame-thrower. Barrymore earlier starred in a film called Firestarter in 1984.
- Moore's "comeback" appearance came just seven years after she was crowned the highest paid actress in Hollywood. This marked her first mainstream appearance in a film since GI Jane and Deconstructing Harry in 1997 and she wouldn't appear in a movie again until 2006.
- None of the actors who played Irish characters (even background henchmen) were actually Irish - they were either Scottish, English or American. Mac references this in a deleted scene where he claims his Irish accent is just as good as theirs.
What's not to like?
Frankly, I'm spoilt for choice as to where to begin. As pretty as they are, none of the leading ladies are particularly captivating as characters and feel little more than out-dated stereotypes. Worse still, they are not as funny as they think they are - the film's comedy is painful at times. The narrative feels as though it was written on the fly while they were shooting and the film itself is little more than a series of random events strung together with fluff. Because almost every major part is played by a celebrity of some sort (many of whom aren't even actors), you never buy into them as actual characters so you never engage with them at all.
The film has an unpleasant attitude as well, a sense that if you're not having fun watching Diaz pretend to ride a motorbike and pulling extreme tricks then you're a sexist square. But I'm not - what I expect from a movie is to be either entertained or educated and Full Throttle did neither. It's borderline insulting to suggest that anything about the film is enjoyable and worst of all, it pretends to be progressive whereas I'd argue the opposite. This film is a throwback to the days when women could get any man to talk to them by flashing a bit of cleavage or dress in fetishistic uniforms. This is as forward-thinking as trying to light a fire with two sticks and about as much fun.
Should I watch it?
The first film tested my tolerance quite a bit but this meaningless mess pushed me to beyond breaking point. I watched it with my arms folded, willing it to improve in some small way and other than Bernie Mac and the absence of terminally unfunny Tom Green, I got nothing. Full Throttle is little more than an excuse for celebrities to pick up a quick but shameful payday while the three leading ladies have fun pretending to be feminist icons. A waste of time for all concerned but especially the viewer who watches it - you don't get your time back, you know.
Great For: teenage pervs, anyone who has no concept of what a film is supposed to be like, denying career opportunities for McG, assaulting your senses
Not So Great For: the franchise, struggling actors who needed the work, brain cells
What else should I watch?
Time will tell if the forthcoming reboot Charlie's Angels will revive the fortunes of the franchise but my hopes are high. Co-written, co-produced and directed by Elizabeth Banks, this marks the first time that a woman has directed a film with these characters so maybe it'll be closer in tone to the original or even offer us an updated version, one fit for the 21st century and the #MeToo movement. While it's no classic, the first Charlie's Angels movie is mildly entertaining in its own way but at least it doesn't come completely off the rails and tries to stick to the overall plot.
Trouble is, movies have given us powerful female lead characters for a while now although obviously, this wasn't always so. From Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2: Judgment Day and Sigourney Weaver in the Alien franchise to Jodie Foster's FBI agent in The Silence Of The Lambs and Uma Thurman's unstoppable Bride in Kill Bill, cinema has learnt the value of a female lead and with forthcoming sequels to Wonder Woman and even Thor (which will see Natalie Portman pick up the heaviest hammer in the universe), maybe the tide is starting to turn.
Good. About time too.
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© 2019 Benjamin Cox