I had my apprehensions on the new reboot of ‘Charlie’s Angels’ based on its trailer. After seeing the movie, I stand by my first impression that this version feels a lot like its ticking off boxes off a checklist. It lacked spontaneity and the all-out campy tone that worked so well with the first cinematic reboot starring Drew Barrymore, Lucy Liu, and Cameron Diaz. Barrymore-Liu-Diaz kicked ass because they were having fun with the material and concept. They didn’t take it seriously and, in so doing, made their films look fun and cool.
This new iteration, written and directed by Elizabeth Banks (from a story by Evan Spiliotopoulos and David Auburn) tries to be campy but also tries very hard to be badass and the mixture doesn’t find a balance. The film takes the action sequences a little too seriously (with a whole lot of gunfights whereas I don’t remember that much in the first films) and then sets up the women as almost infallible and then tries to insert the campiness and the funny moments in-between.
This reserve technique makes ‘Charlie’s Angels’ feels like it lost its identity. Rather than embrace the campy origins of the show it’s based from, by pushing it and making it feel more serious than it should, it doesn’t quite punch the same way.
At the same time, they’ve expanded the world so much by making the Townsend Agency, where Charlie’s angels worked into an international organization with different branches and a whole lot of angels at work. That idea alone is campy and unrealistic so there’s no point in trying to take a serious approach to piece.
There are some really funny moments, especially from Kristen Stewart, who seems to be the only one having fun along with Elizabeth Banks. Ella Balinska is formidable as the former MI-6 agent Jane but she’s written almost in a one-dimensional way. She gets all the cool stunts and fight scenes but they hardly give her time to really build on her character (consider she’s the angel with the most visible arc). Naomi Scott plays the client who ends up becoming an honorary angel in this mission and there’s just no light shining from her. It’s strange because she was quite strong in ‘Aladdin’ but she feels like she’s going through the motions. It feels like stock responses rather than genuine reaction to getting caught up in international espionage.
Because there’s also a whole lot of it. ‘Charlie’s Angels’ is filled with an unnecessary plot that takes us from Paris to London to Hamburg and then Istanbul. There’s so much world-building that needs to be done and a whole lot of exposition that we need to get through that the character work feels very light and thin.
It tries to create a certain kind of rapport for the three girls but it gets lost amongst all the plot and action sequences and gags that the film has to get through.
And while there’s a whole lot of action, a lot of times the camera gets too close and the editing cuts too fast that you don’t get to see a lot of the action. And it’s such a shame because Ella Balinska and Jonathan Tucker, who plays a mysterious assassin, are very physical actors and can definitely fight well. But you don’t really get to see it. Everything is moving too fast.
There are very strong women empowerment themes and moments in the film but it also feels like a hard sell as when the whole concept on its own already sells that message. Maybe I’m speaking out of turn but I would have just preferred to let Stewart, Scott, and Balinska take on the international arms dealer with as many crazy costumes, funny situations, and wild antics that befits the campy tone of the material.
I wanted to have fun with it but I felt that the movie wanted me to think it was cool. And all the moving parts were there -- an interesting and dynamic cast, a great foundation to build upon, and the budget for all the locations and set pieces -- but it ended up feeling safe.