Should I Watch..? 'Charlie's Angels' (2000)
What's the big deal?
Charlie's Angels is an action comedy film released in 2000 and is based on the TV series of the same name created by Ivan Goff and Ben Roberts. The film features three female private detectives working for the enigmatic Charlie, hired to locate a missing IT boss and his voice-recognition software. The film stars Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore (who also served as producer) and Lucy Liu and was directed by former music video director McG in his big screen directorial debut. The film differed from the TV series by having a more comedic approach as opposed to the more serious dramatic tone of the show. The film was released to mixed reviews but it went on to make more than $264 million worldwide, which naturally led to a sequel in 2003 Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle. Since then, the series has been in hibernation although talk exists of a possible reboot in the near future with Elizabeth Banks lined up to produce and direct.
What's it about?
Enigmatic millionaire Charlie Townsend runs a private detective agency featuring three young women and Charlie's right-hand man Bosley. Natalie Cook, Dylan Sanders and Alex Munday are known as the Angels - who use a combination of martial-arts, sex appeal and technical prowess to get the job done. The Angels find themselves tasked by Charlie to locate kidnapped IT executive Eric Knox who has developed ground-breaking voice recognition software. It's believed that he is being held by the owner of a satellite firm, Redstar's Roger Corwin, so the girls head off to infiltrate Corwin's swanky party.
Quickly spotting a suspicious looking individual on the security cameras, the Angels battle with the Thin Man who quickly makes his escape. But it soon turns out that not everything is as it seems - as Dylan and Knox begin falling for each other, the other girls are attacked by mystery assailants while Bosley's attempts to remotely access the Redstar computer system result in his capture. And with Knox's business partner Vivian Wood apparently out for blood, a dark deception threatens not just the Angels but Charlie as well...
Ryan Rowe, Ed Solomon & John August*
Release Date (UK)
24th November, 2000
What's to like?
While it's tempting to say that the best thing about the film is the Destiny's Child hit Independent Women, it simply isn't true. The film is less of an action film and more of a light-hearted tribute to the much-loved TV show from the Seventies. All three leading ladies have had experience in comedic roles and they gel together brilliantly well, providing the film with a core of candyfloss. They are somewhat less convincing in the action scenes, despite shamelessly imitating The Matrix. When Diaz launches herself across the screen in a gravity-defying series of kung fu kicks, she looks like a stick thrown by a dog owner.
That said, the film is awash with energy and fun. It certainly throws plenty of ideas at the audience in the hope something will stick - a funny disguise here, gratuitous use of a pop song there and of course, ample amounts of sexy posturing. It reminded me, weirdly, of the big screen version of another 70s classic Starsky & Hutch. It doesn't capture the spirit of the original but the vibe, those warming nostalgic moments that come flooding back. The film might not have an original idea anywhere but it's enjoyable if you are in the right mood and switch your brain off.
- Barrymore purchased the rights to the show before filming began - over the course of two movies, it's estimated to have made her $120 million! It was her influence as producer that led to the Angels never using guns at any point.
- There has been rumours of on-set arguments and even fights between Bill Murray, his co-star Lucy Liu and director McG. Murray and Liu fell out after she perceived him to be criticising her acting, causing her to fly into a rage although Murray maintains that the quality of her lines in the script was the problem. McG claims that Murray also physically attacked him although Murray denies this.
- Murray may have a point about the script, which underwent thirty re-writes until one was deemed "acceptable". In total, some eighteen writers worked on the script.
What's not to like?
Although Charlie's Angels is perfectly light-hearted, it isn't that funny. The comedy falls flatter than Gemma Collins on ice (it'll be somewhere on YouTube) and the film doesn't offer much in the way of interest or excitement. It's a simple parade of cameos from the likes of LL Cool J, Tom Green (Barrymore's boyfriend at the time, the sole reason for his casting), Matt LeBlanc and others sandwiched between action scenes that almost feel like a parody. Yes, the girls look fabulous and are clearly having fun but the rest of the film feels as though the cast were forced in front of the cameras at gunpoint. Murray is noticeably uncomfortable, meaning that his recasting in the sequel would be inevitable while Green is just about the least funniest thing I've seen in a film since Schindler's List.
I would love to be more positive but they dropped the ball with this one. Granted, the original show was judged to be little more than so-called 'jiggle TV' at the time but it was at the forefront of a wave of shows that focused on female leads alongside the likes of Wonder Woman and Three's Company. But it didn't rely on such shenanigans whereas this film decides that the best thing for feminism it can do is feature three very attractive ladies see how much cleavage they can reveal. I found it a touch depressing and these days, when Hollywood is trying its best to reverse decades of sexual exploitation, it looks even more outdated.
Should I watch it?
It didn't work for me but if you are in the right frame of mind (or drunk) then Charlie's Angels might be the sunny escapist relief you're looking for. The girls look hot and the film has plenty of fun sequences but it doesn't do much more than tread water. The action is memorable for the wrong reasons, the threadbare plot feels cobbled together and the whole thing feels quite forgettable. Another example of a wasted reboot opportunity.
Great For: looking at pretty women, sales of the TV boxsets, dirty people with pause buttons
Not So Great For: encouraging new fans, feminism, Barrymore's bank account
What else should I watch?
Perhaps realising that their leading ladies weren't that great at the action stuff, Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle introduces a heavy dose of extreme motorsports featuring quadbikes and motocross bikes - all featuring people wearing crash helmets. Unfortunately, the film is even worse with a plot that strongly resembles this one, even more pointless cameos and McG barely able to keep things under control as director. No wonder these films feel little more than extended music videos.
There have been some real stinkers of films based on TV shows with notorious flops like Sgt Bilko, The Avengers, Wild Wild West and more recent bombs like The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and CHiPS. That's not to say that TV shows can't move onto the big screen - take Star Trek and the long list of films that followed that show from the slightly clunky Star Trek: The Motion Picture to the recent blockbuster Star Trek Beyond. Another big screen success has been the ever-improving Mission: Impossible franchise although if we're being honest here, it's nothing like the original show.
© 2019 Benjamin Cox