Charlie’s Angels Review: Don’t Call It Angel, Don’t Call It All Bad
The Angels are back and so covert they may slip out of sight in a crowded month of releases. Still, you might get dragged to it which is no death sentence.
November is a dumping ground. So many movies come out at once, most will get lost in the crowd – like a certain Doctor Sleep. You wind up missing a few gems, but then others are on a sort of bubble; they’re entertaining enough and not all bad.
That’s where I am with the Charlie’s Angels reboot (which is really a sequel). It won’t please everybody nor is it by any means perfect though it has its moments. You have to ask yourself: do you want a dark, serious, intellectual Charlie’s Angels that aspires to be a masterpiece or something that has the right amount of energy to hold your attention?
Systems engineer Elena Houghlin (Naomi Scott) helps create Calisto, the cleanest renewable energy tech this side of an arc reactor. Little does she know it’s sought by terrorists and rogue agents who realize its potential as a weapon.
Calisto can be programmed to emit a low-level EMP blast that causes fatal seizures in people. If it’s in every home, a threatening and politically volatile target can be taken out anywhere on the planet.
Fortunately, Elena and the tech is on the radar of the Townsend Agency and their Angels, who’ve gone global. Swooping in for the rescue and bringing her into the fold is the sassy Sabina (Kristen Stewart) and the tough, take-no-prisoners Jane (Ella Balinska). Assassins on their tail also after Elena and Calisto, the Angels and their new companion discover a conspiracy within their organization.
What I Liked About It
The best way for me to convey how I feel about this movie is to break it down into categories of what I liked and what didn’t stick with me. So, here we go starting with the positives:
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Naomi Scott – from Power Rangers to Aladdin, the English-born Scott doesn’t get enough credit for her ability. She shines and does the best she can with what she’s given to become easily the best thing in this picture. Faking an American accent when she doesn’t have to, Scott plays her part, managing some funny moments. She’s convincing as an awkward geek girl, charming but simultaneously bumbling and in over her head, although she might be deemed too pretty for such a character.
Jonathan Tucker – showing up like someone you haven’t seen in a long time, the Black Donnellys and American Gods star is the silent but scary tattooed assassin. Crispin Glover played a similar role in Charlie’s Angels 2000 and Full Throttle. Tucker is no Glover, in some ways he’s better. You never lose the feeling this guy had red in his ledger and he’s a very cold henchman. Finally, his existence as a catalyst leads to an adequately satisfying showdown with Jane at the end.
Patrick Stewart – a little Capt. Picard goes a long way. Sir Patrick Stewart makes everything better and he has a nice subplot that comes around at the climax. The essence of it is borrowed from Full Throttle but Sir Pat does what he does so well.
Things That Made Me Go “Meh”
Written and directed by Elizabeth Banks? I’m not sure why Elizabeth Banks is turning to action/comedy instead of an indie drama. Maybe that’s the point. If her involvement wasn’t heavily advertised then you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. As updated as this Charlie’s Angels is, the stench of McG lingers.
Kristen Stewart – she tries way too hard. It’s as if Nic Cage is her acting coach. Her character is interesting but so overwritten she doesn’t come across as natural. And she uses way too many words to execute a single punchline. “Institutional facilities”? Just say prison, okay?
Feminist agenda? It doesn’t overpower the story but when the rhetoric creeps up, they’re far from subtle. Stewart talks about her independence, life, and says “my choice” 3 or 4 times in under two minutes during the opening scene when she’s supposed to be undercover and on the verge of kicking someone’s tail. And she virtue signals with each punch. Following that is an encouraging montage of distaff urchins running around which could’ve been saved for the closing credits. A couple more revisions before greenlighting the script would not have hurt. Trouble is we know who wrote this thing; every trailer tells us.
Noah Centineo – so he’s the new He-Man, huh? A better match for Mark Ruffalo’s son or kid brother, Centineo’s rather disposable and only shows up soon after you forgot he was in this. He plays a total dork and only serves as someone for the Angels to save at the most random times. Like so many other male characters, Centineo is just dumb fodder. John Turturro wanted to make a Big Lebowski sequel about “how stupid men are.” Banks beat him to it.
Plot progression – as cool as the premise sounds, the film moves along so quickly you miss the transitions. One minute, Bosley and the Angels are talking about “bowl cuts,” the next, they’re infiltrating a tightly secured lab in Hamburg. The hair is part of their similar disguises but still feels like a random gag with no point.
All that aside, I was impressed with how they expanded the lore and scale of the Townsend Agency. They kept continuity with the series and the last two movies when Banks could’ve shunned what came before as if she invented it.
Yeah, Charlie’s Angels is woke but it’s also fun. If you can get past the cringier moments it’s not a bad popcorn movie. Should you rush out to see it? Don’t sweat yourself. It’ll make a decent rental in a few months.