Charlie's Angels

on November 03, 2000 by Wade Major
   A sassy, brassy, titillating bundle of joy, "Charlie's Angels" is as close to pure, unrepentant fun as any movie in years. It's also the first feature adaptation of a classic television series to finally get the recipe right, fashioning itself as a hybrid of both old and new--campy, referential kitsch for the television faithful and loud, bombastic action for the all-important youth market.

   Rigorously adhering to the formula established by the 1976-1981 ABC TV series, the film stars Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz and Lucy Liu as the lusty, trusty trio of crime-fighting Angels, with Bill Murray as the reliable Bosley and John Forsythe again lending his voice to the elusive Charlie. A deliciously ridiculous introductory set piece establishes the picture's outlandish tone before segueing into a wonderfully convoluted storyline well worthy of the series, with a wide assortment of episode-specific references thrown in for good measure. The adventure begins when a brilliant technology innovator (Sam Rockwell) is kidnapped, leading his partner (Kelly Lynch) to seek out the help of Charlie, Bosley and the Angels who zero in on a wealthy communications magnate (Tim Curry) and a sword-wielding psychopath (Crispin Glover) as probable culprits.

   Though credited to three writers, it is alleged that no fewer than a dozen A-list Hollywood scribes had their hands on the project at various stages, a practice that is usually a sure-fire recipe for disaster, although in this case it somehow all works out for the best. The result is a dizzy, tipsy potpourri of over-the-top action and off-the-wall jokes that seem to benefit from the uneven confluence of talents, arguably the most successful-ever blend of high camp and serious action. Key to the success of this approach is the apparent realization on the part of the filmmakers that despite the relative seriousness with which the original series took itself, it is the nostalgic camp factor to which it owes its ongoing popularity. Consequently, "Charlie's Angels" winds up being more "Austin Powers" than "Mission: Impossible," yet never so much as to become a mockery of the series. Even at its goofiest, "Charlie's Angels" pays reverential homage to its small-screen forebear, tickling an otherwise impossibly broad swath of audience demographics with giddy, liberal doses of good old-fashioned sex and violence.

   Individual contributions are likewise strong throughout, from the colorful cast (Diaz and the chronically weird Glover are standouts) to the commanding style of first-time director McG (a veteran of commercials and music videos) to the “Matrix”-like martial arts and wirework sequences by Hong Kong action veteran Cheung-Yan Yeung (younger brother to "The Matrix" choreographer Yuen Wo Ping). Kudos also to the film's soundtrack which, like the film, targets audiences both old and new with an eclectic mix of retro pop and hip-hop, and a slick Edward Shearmur score loaded with television-inspired incidental cues. Starring Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore, Lucy Liu, Bill Murray, Sam Rockwell, Tim Curry, Kelly Lynch and Crispin Glover. Directed by McG. Written by Ryan Rowe & Ed Solomon and John August. Produced by Leonard Goldberg, Drew Barrymore and Nancy Juvonen. A Columbia release. Action-comedy. Rated PG-13 for action violence, innuendo and some sensuality/nudity. Running time: 98 min

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