Charlie's Angels (2000)
Directed by McG
Cast: Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz, Lucy Liu, Bill Murray, Sam Rockwell, Kelly Lynch, Crispin Glover, Tim Curry, Luke Wilson, Tom Green, Matt LeBlanc, LL Cool J.
2000 98 minutes
Rated: (for violence, profanity, and sexual innuendo).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, November 4, 2000.
After months of alleged production delays, casting and script problems, and endless rumors of on-set arguments, "Charlie's Angels," a big-screen adaptation of the cult '76-'81 television series (starring Jaclyn Smith and Farrah Fawcett, among others), seemed doomed for catastrophic failure. After all, when was the last time we saw a TV-show-turned-feature-film that was worthwhile, particularly when the budget was an overblown $90-million? Moreover, the terrible teaser trailer, with the three lead actresses performing their martial arts moves in front of a fiery background, was not exactly cause to break out the champagne glasses.
Imagine, then, the delightful surprise of watching the finished product and gradually realizing that I haven't had this much fun at the movies all year. In a nutshell, "Charlie's Angels" is an unequivocal success--a highly entertaining, funny, exciting, no-holds-barred, bubblegum triumph of the way to make a great action-comedy, as well as a rambunctious female empowerment fantasy.
Tough-girl Dylan (Drew Barrymore), sexy sweetheart Natalie (Cameron Diaz), and ultra-intelligent Alex (Lucy Liu) are Charlie's Angels: a trio of strong young women who work for mystery millionaire Charlie (voiced by John Forsythe and never seen) and his personal assistant Bosley (Bill Murray) to keep the world safe from nasty villains and megalomaniacs. Their latest mission is to rescue an electronics genius by the name of Knox (Sam Rockwell), who has been kidnapped by wealthy thief Roger Corwin (Tim Curry) and his silent henchman (Crispin Glover).
A comedic rendition of the countless James Bond flicks--only twenty times more fun and original--"Charlie's Angels" is not so much about its thin storyline as it is about the refreshingly lightweight style which feature film debut director McG (whose previous credits include several music videos) evokes. From the stunning opening sequence that begins on an airplane and ends on a sailboat, to the climax set around an ancient castle alongside the California coast, director McG clearly knows exactly how to balance all of his various genres, including action, comedy, and romance, for optimum effect. The movie is far-fetched, yet so shamelessly tongue-in-cheek as to never seem anything less than innocently believable.
If there was ever any on-set strife between the cast members, you won't find any signs of it here. Each actor finds just the perfect tone for their character, and they all elicit an overwhelming joy of performing. Actress-producer Drew Barrymore (1999's "Never Been Kissed") has found in her character of Dylan a chance to show off her comic flair to a greater effect than she ever has before. Cameron Diaz (1999's "Being John Malkovich"), as Natalie, is hilariously klutzy, yet smart, and has a smile so warm and beautiful that she sells every moment she appears here. Rounding out the angels is Lucy Liu (2000's "Shanghai Noon"), as streetwise Alex, who provides a welcome contrast to her tonally sunnier costars, and equips herself in her kung-fu-style action sequences quite nicely. Together, Barrymore, Diaz, and Liu are charismatic joys who obviously had just as much fun making the film as it is to watch it.
Adding an extra amount of amusement to the proceedings is the constant stream of costume changes the actresses goes through, as they head undercover posing in different disguises. There is particular entertainment to be had in a sequence in which Barrymore and Diaz crossdress, while the leather-clad, whip-striking Liu poses as a dominatrix-cum-efficiency-expert and bewitches every student in the class.
The supporting cast is appropriately over-the-top, and all the more enjoyable because of it. Bill Murray (1998's "Rushmore") returns to his purely jokey roots with Bosley, and makes a big impression with a not-so-large role. Sam Rockwell (1999's "The Green Mile") is lively and magnetic as the kidnapped Knox; Tim Curry is at his slimy best as Roger Corwin; and Tom Green (2000's "Road Trip"), Matt LeBlanc (TV's "Friends"), and Luke Wilson (1999's "Blue Streak") are effective as the gals' love interests.
Special notice must be made to Crispin Glover (2000's "Nurse Betty"), whose brooding role as The Thin Man is one of the most memorably nasty and appropriately animated villains to come around in years. Watch Glover closely; he doesn't have one line of dialogue throughout, but simply by the drifty way in which he carries himself and smokes his cigarettes, as if he were a famed magician performing his most popular trick, does he create a wholly fresh and despicably enjoyable character.
With sunny, attractive cinematography; fast-paced editing; a sharply clever screenplay by Ryan Rowe, Ed Solomon, and John August; a standout soundtrack that wittily includes innumerable songs featuring the word, "angel," in them, as well as a nice mixture of music from the '70s, '80s, '90s, and the present day; and awesome stunts not matched since last summer's "Mission: Impossible 2," "Charlie's Angels" is a film that is unquestionably better than it has any right to be. The movie makes no halfhearted effort to be anything more than a happily diverting popcorn film, and by doing so, exceeds the viewer's highest expectations. By being unpretentious in the extreme, it is the most invigorating thing that has happened to the action genre in the last decade. "Charlie's Angels" is F-U-N, the type of movie the term, 'rollicking good time,' was invented for.
©2000 by Dustin Putman