|Charlie's Angels (Special Edition) (2000)|
|Written by Abbie Bernstein|
|Tuesday, 27 March 2001|
Directed by McG from a script by Ryan Rowe & Ed Solomon and John August, "Charlie’s Angels" is consistently very funny without ever nudging us in the ribs too hard. The opening segment in Chapter 1 spoofs the old "Mission: Impossible," as a large African-American man who thwarts an airplane bomber removes his disguise to reveal that he’s really Dylan, the character played by Drew Barrymore. Dylan is the tomboy on the crime-fighting team that answers only to mysterious billionaire Charlie (voiced, as on the TV version, by John Forsythe). The other Angels are buoyant blonde Natalie (an exuberant Cameron Diaz) and expert role-player Alex (Lucy Liu), with good-natured if physically unheroic Bosley (Bill Murray) acting as their aide.
The Angels are hired to find a computer genius (Sam Rockwell), who has evidently been kidnapped by his archrival (Tim Curry). The Angels kick, punch, drive fast and generally get to do all the stuff James Bond does, including sleeping with members of the opposite sex (that would be men here, folks), all the while engaging in happy girlfriend bonding. They’re never too caught up in work to help each other out: on surveillance detail, when Natalie is entranced by a cute bartender (Luke Wilson), her colleagues give her this invaluable advice over her earpiece: "Flip your hair."
One exception to the Bond methodology is that none of the Angels use guns (in this universe, guns are for bad guys who are too physically inept to get their way out of a jam with bare hands and shod feet). The pace is so peppy that most people won’t notice the absence of firearms in our heroines’ hands.
The "Charlie’s" film is sharp enough to actually parody specific clichéd TV "Angels" shots, so that the aforementioned hair-flipping, along with the requisite jiggle shots of upper bodies and admiring views of derrieres, are held just long enough to register with a wink but not a leer. The movie magically treads an incredibly fine line of maintaining high energy and being incredibly funny without ever inviting us to laugh at the women. The sensibility is reminiscent of TV’s "Lois and Clark" – the Angels get the same sort of teasing and the same sort of underlying respect that marked the treatment of Superman. (Given what the characters achieve, they also seem to be accorded near-superpowers.)
Of course, nothing on television has the budget that was applied to the "Charlie’s Angels" movie. As the saying goes, the dollars are on the screen. There are explosions, car chases and elaborate sets galore. There are also a couple of extremely enjoyable, goofy dance sequences courtesy of Diaz in Chapters 4 and 16.
The sound, while decent, is not as defined as it might be. In the theatre, the audio track threatened to peel the baffling from the walls. Here, unless your volume is cranked way up, there’s a lot of vibration but not much genuine heft in a number of scenes where we might expect it. Chapter 2 makes clever use of a trio of songs – "Wake Me Up," "Money" and "I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll" – to introduce our heroines, but we notice the appropriateness of the choices more than any standout sonic qualities. Chapter 10 has some good noises of impact of boot on flesh in a visually impressive send-up of Hong Kong/ "Matrix"-style combat. Chapter 12, a racing sequence that ends in a major crash, has a strong, clear dialogue track in the center channel and some dimensional revving engines, but even here, the impacts and explosions register but don’t really surround the viewer. Chapter 17 has the DVD’s most enveloping sound sequence, as an initial bullet hits with enough force to make you jump and the room thereafter seems to rattle around on all sides while receiving rapid fire. Chapter 20 has a massive detonation marked by some precisely-placed pieces of debris hitting the ground in the mains (planks land on the ground with an admirably realistic sound of wood striking asphalt).
There’s a ton of supplemental material, with a lot of little featurettes focusing on individual aspects of the film. The best of these may be "The Master and the Angels," a look at martial-arts choreographer Cheung-Yan Yuen, who was hired for "Charlie’s" on the basis of his work in "The Matrix" and the Hong Kong films that preceded it. "Wired Angels," a featurette looking at the flying-wire work done in the Chapter 12 alley fight sequence, is arguably misconceived. This segment is edited to resemble the final version of the scene to such an extent that, although we see where the wire rigs connect to the performers, we don’t see much of what the actors are or what they’re doing to prepare for the shots, so it’s not very informative. The "outtakes and bloopers" segment is an even bigger disappointment – while amusing, it’s the same footage shown under the closing credits, with the credits removed. The audio commentary track, with director McG and cinematographer Russell Carpenter, is pleasantly informative. The supplements are in lively 2.0 stereo.
The Destiny’s Child music video "Independent Women Pt. 1" is agreeable enough, with the group singing an anthem about the importance of paying one’s own way while seated around an enormous boardroom table, occasionally viewing clips from the movie on their wall screen. Apollo Four Forty’s "Charlie’s Angels 2000" intersperses more movie clips with shots of the band performing the opening credits theme (a techno-rock rendering of the original ‘70s show music).
If there’s such a thing as excellence in high-kicking fluff, "Charlie’s Angels" achieves it. The movie doesn’t take itself too seriously, yet avoids lapsing into complete silliness. As a result, it’s truly enjoyable light entertainment.