Rental Review: Charlie's Angels

by Jake Sproul

Rating: (out of )
DVD Extras Rating: Above Average

Charlie’s Angels has the special distinction of being the movie I saw the most in the theater. 5 times. Yes, I saw Charlie’s Angel’s FIVE times at the theater, not to mention the countless times on video. I think a great way to test the quality of a movie is how it holds up to repeat viewings, and Charlie’s Angels most certainly makes the grade. To quote directly from director McG himself, “This isn’t Othello.” He got that right! Charlie’s Angels is far from inventive, and the plot is recycled. However, director McG has taken a guaranteed hit, and instead of just slapping together another action movie, he has crafted a movie that delicately balances comedy, action, and throw back to its origins from the 70’s. At its core, Charlie’s Angels is a T&A movie for 13 year olds, yet for anyone else who views this, it is the most pleasant of larks, and who wouldn‘t want to spend 90 minutes with Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore, and Lucy Liu?

Before I saw the movie, I had not seen a single episode of the original Charlie’s Angels. From what I read about it, two of its 3 stars leaving after the first season, a surprisingly short run, and its name in record books only for its perfectly timed statement of the female-revolution, I was not really interested. The film version of Charlie’s Angels is a totally modernized version, and it appears that the only thing that has remained the same is the voice of John Forsythe as Charlie. Upon reexamination however, there is one more similarity between the 70’s TV show and the 2000 film update, the episodic plot. The movie wastes no time in introducing us to our three angels: Dylan, Alex, and Natalie; they are three beautiful, intelligent, and unique girls who are also crime fighting private investigators. Their current client is Vivian Wood (Kelly Lynch), who has hired the Angels to track down her business partner Eric Knox (Sam Rockwell) and their missing computer software. Their number one suspect is Knox’s competitor Roger Corwin, played by Tim Curry. However, everything is not what it seems, and the girls’ womanly intuition may be fatally off.

I lied. There is another similarity of the movie and the TV show. The movie is not a complete modern make over, because it retains some of the style that made the show a hit. Things like the opening introduction to the angels, the clips from previous missions right at the beginning (like a TV show would do) and split screens. While watching the special features on the DVD for Charlie’s Angels, McG hit it on the head when he said he wanted every scene in the movie to look like “a picture book, and every page you turned was radically different from the last.” He has succeed in this beyond everyone’s wildest dreams. Everyone remembers Natalie’s dance sequence, the scene at the race-track, the opening plane sequence, Dylan’s high kicking fight sequence, the main frame scene, the fight in the Chinese alley, and Alex’s dominatrix efficiency expert under cover assignment just to name a few. This picture book quality is also reminiscent of a TV show, in which every episode had a different feel to it.

One of the major improvements from the TV show was the personalities of the new angels. In the TV shows, the three angels were pretty much all the same. But in the movie, they are all so different. Natalie is the ditzy blonde, who fights so athletically with beautiful kicks. Dylan is a little bit trampy, with bar-room brawling type fighting style, and Alex is the most gadget oriented of the three angels, but when she does fight, she is by far the most graceful. Of course this wouldn’t be possible without three perfectly cast and unique actresses. Cameron Diaz (unfairly) gets the most amount of money for her role in Charlie’s Angels, as well as top billing. She does however earn her keep with a good performance. Drew Barrymore does perhaps the best job of all the three, utilizing her good looks, wit, and she does get all the good lines in the movie. (I am the only person who didn’t find, “I signed that release waver, so feel free to stick things in my slot,” funny.) Lucy Liu was cast to avoid controversy had they cast 3 white angels. However, Liu does do a fine job keeping up with Drew and Cameron. It is however clear that she is everyone’s least favorite, but that was to be expected with Cameron Diaz and Drew Barrymore as your competition.

As for the supporting cast, they are all marvelous. Its a shame that Bill Murray will not be joining us as Bosley for Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle this summer, but he will always be remembered as working well with the Angels on screen, (despite the rumors of conflicts with Lucy Liu off screen). Sam Rockwell has really made a name for himself as of late. Confessions of a Dangerous Mind earned him raves as Gong Show host Chuck Barris, but it was in Charlie’s Angels where he mixed charming, geeky with ultra-cool (three things seemingly all impossible to possess) for the first time. One half of the Wilson brother acting team, Luke Wilson, who I believe is the more talented brother, plays yet again, the shmucky boyfriend, and after all the practice he has, he does it well. I really wish he would branch out more though. His turn in The Royal Tenenbaum’s was certainly impressive, and I hope to see more acting of that caliber. In the last few years, NBC’s current Thursday night anchor “Friends” has really taken off, topping the Nielson’s in 2001. Matt LeBlanc has not doubt benefited from this the most, he has earned a Golden Globe nomination and Emmy nomination this year, and I have to think that his rise was assisted with a supporting role in Charlie’s Angels, as Alex’s boyfriend. Unlike Lost in Space, Matt LeBlanc actually improves this movie, I know, I cannot believe it either. His acting is obviously not what people were expecting, people were expecting screen presence, and he does that wonderfully.

What is it about Charlie’s Angels that aloud me to literally watch the teaser trailer on the DVD about 15 times without ever getting sick of it? Or watching the opening plane/boat montage without ever finding it redundant? If I knew that, I am sure I could create the world’s most successful movie. Charlie’s Angels was certainly a hit at the box office, however it was not the hit that it was planned on being. After the receipts had been added, the films total came to an impressive but not overwhelming $125,305,545. This is sad because a lot of people missed out on such a pleasant movie, a big budget movie worthy of the ever-soaring price of a movie ticket. Hopefully this review does persuade some of you to rent, or even perhaps buy the DVD to this perfect summer movie extravagance.

© 2003 Jacob Sproul

Rental Reviews Archive
Main Archive