Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle

a review by

Matt Ceccato

The second entry in the Charlie's Angels franchise is a real hit and miss affair.  In fact, my review will be a "pro" and "con" list. Here goes:

1. This film has a stronger story than the first one. Granted, it seems these days that the first film of a potential franchise only sets up the characters and relationships. And should the franchise take off, the subsequent films will explore the nuances of our heroes and villains. This film takes off with one of the angels, and we get a more detailed back story from Drew Barrymore's character, Dylan (whether it did with the fact that she was a producer remains to be seen, but oh, well). The film is better for it.
2. Bernie Mac as Bosley. Bernie is one of the most fluid comedic actors performing today, and his assuming the role from Bill Murray was a natural fit. He knows how to turn on the bravado and turn off the machismo. As with the tone of the television show this film derived from, he doesn't have a whole lot to do after a while. But every time he is on screen, wonderful things happen. The role is his for as long as he wants it.
3. Demi Moore as fallen angel Madison Lee. Much has been said about this being her comeback. I didn't think she really went anywhere. She plays the role of the villain with a panache that is part camp, part menace. I believed her and her scheme of wanting to know the names of all the members of the Federal Witness Protection Program. However, the plot of how this happens will be discussed in the cons section of this review.
4. John Cleese as Alex's (Lucy Liu) father. It's very rare that Mr. Cleese makes a wrong decision. Maybe more screen time with him in the next film?
5. The dance sequences. We see our three angels (Cameron Diaz as Natalie and the aforementioned Barrymore and Liu) bust a move to MC Hammer that made me giggle. Then Natalie has a solo turn at her boyfriend's (Luke Wilson) high school reunion that is so delightfully goofy it almost made me twirl alongside her. This second sequence should win next year's MTV Movie Award for Best Dance Sequence.
6. It's all around fun. All the actors involved had a great time making this film. Granted, the pressure was off from the first one, but it dives straight in without thinking about what the audience will think. Movies like that have chutzpah and can't help but be admired.  And did I mention Crispin Glover reprising his role as "the thin man"?

1. There is no originality in the action sequences anymore. Yes, we know the Matrix franchise has rewritten the rules for action sequences. But does it have to be re-created in every single film? While the rip-offs (excuse me, homage) can be overlooked every now and then, stealing from other films in the name of "parody", when the film is played for "straight", gets very old very quickly. The climax of the opening sequence was lifted straight from Goldeneye. And one particular fight on a warehouse pier was taken almost shot for shot from an old Jet Li film made sometime in the mid 90s that was never released in the US. Most audiences won't recognize the latter, but that left a sour taste in my mouth.
2. The plot. Yes, it's a goofy franchise. However, the writers took the time to create a back story for one of the angels, then shouldn't the main plot have some as well? Who is going to believe the list of the FWPP is encrypted in a pair of rings kept on the fingers of separate government officials? Okay, the rings are a MacGuffin, but something better could have come out of this premise. Sometimes it goes to show that three screenwriters can still come up with something a tad too simple.
3. The film is shot and edited by someone that either has ADHD or ate way too much sugar. Obviously director McG (real name Joseph McGinty Nichol) thought he was making something not for himself but for the TRL crowd. And obviously that requires lots of jump edits, out of focus shots and general mayhem. In fact, if there wasn't enough mayhem, we could see the director adding more explosions and more "bullet time". This really turns sloppy after a while.
4. The wave of celebrity cameos. After a while, it turns into a drinking game. But some of them are pretty amusing, especialy Jacklyn Smith reprising her role from the TV series.

So, overall, I really did have fun with this film. As I said, you can't help but admire the chutzpah and attitude the film has. However, for the next film, how about striking out on your own and creating something really more original? These films do exist to entertain, yes. And they do. I'd just like to see something different.  So I guess the pros outweighed the cons.

Three stars.