Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle Movie Review

The first "Charlie's Angels" movie was a lightning strike of sexy, silly, butt-kicking-babe action-flick fun. But at least it made an attempt to have an intelligible plot with genuine stakes, cool twists, clever campiness and memorable characters.

Lightning does not strike twice in the sequel "Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle," which only bothers with a minute or two of story in each reel, as it tries to skate by on cheap wisecracks and surprise cameos (Bruce Willis! Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen! TV "Angel" Jaclyn Smith!) while spending the bulk of its time mired in over-produced, three-ring-circus-like, exclamation-point action scenes.

The Angels drive a military truck off the top of a Mongolian dam, and out pops a helicopter in which they escape from an army of bad guys! The Angels enter a motocross race in which bikes collide and explode during mid-air back flips! The Angels fight off two dozen punk-poser Irish gangsters at the San Pedro harbor in slow-mo/fast-mo uber-choreographed kung fu!

Yet all of this over-fabricated big-budget flash (punched up with a party-hardy 40-song soundtrack), "Angels 2" has a detached, video-game quality that makes it all so artificial as to be boring. This time out, stars Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz and Lucy Liu are obviously having a ball while goofing off and getting paid millions. But as far as the audience goes, the movie seems to be saying, "Wish you were here."

Burdened with having to have some kind of structure, attention-deficit director McG (ne Joseph McGinty Nichol, also returning from the original) pays occasional lip service to a plot about a stolen Witness Protection Program list of stoolies in hiding. Stored only on data chips built into two titanium rings, the list is snatched off the fingers of two government officials and will be sold to the highest-bidding mobster if the Angels (inexplicably hired by the FBI) don't find the rings first.

The film's three stars giggle and jiggle their way through bawdy, innuendo-packed, tongue-in-cheek performances, each with her own subplot -- Cameron's shacking up with beau Luke Wilson; Lucy's daddy (John Cleese) pays a visit and mistakes her on-call, secret-identity job for prostitution; Drew discovers one of the Irish punks (Justin Theroux) is an ex-boyfriend. Meanwhile, comedian Bernie Mac personality-schticks through scattered improvisational scenes as a feckless, ghetto-raised replacement for Bill Murray's Angel-wrangler Bosley.

But while these four are focused on having superficial fun on the set, Demi Moore rides in and steals the movie. Despite being saddled with the most inane expository dialogue, the 41-year-old actress (who looks much better than she did in "Striptease" and can hold her own in a bikini stand-off with Diaz) manages to turn her role as a hand-cannon-toting rogue ex-Angel villainess into the talisman that almost saves the flick, even as the plot falls apart.

The failure of "Full Throttle" is that McG and his stars have mistaken having a good time making a movie for making a good movie.

The first "Charlie's Angels" was witty in its mocking homage to its daft TV source material, but this one is earnest. The first film was inventive in its absurdity (oh what a quirky bad guy Crispin Glover made and oh how cartoonish he's become in reprising the role here). The action in the 2000 outing was over the top but inventive about being so, whereas the sequel seems concerned only with turning up the volume of the candy-colored stunts.

And "Charlie's Angels" had a story with some smarts and substance. But on this script, returning screenwriter John August collaborated with Cormac and Marianne Wibberley -- responsible for the insipid "I-Spy" and for wrecking the potential of Arnold Schwarzenegger's clone thriller "The 6th Day" -- and the results are contrived, simplistic Z-grade plot devices in place of actual plot.

I'm always willing to check my brain at the door for a movie that makes it worth my while, but I don't think writers, actors and directors should do the same thing when making such movies.


Comments

Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle Rating

" Grim "

Rating: PG-13, WIDE: Friday, June 27, 2003

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