30 July 2017

Review: Charlie's Angels / Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle

(Dir: McG, 2000 / 2003)

Everything about this pair of films is ridiculous. Let's make that clear from the outset. But that's an intended part of their charm – if indeed you believe they possess any charm. Although in reality it's hard to argue with the charm that Drew Barrymore's Dylan, Lucy Liu's Alex and Cameron Diaz's Natalie offer, as the titular angels. They are almost the sole reasons these are fun films to watch, as their effervescent energy makes us laugh and makes us believe they can do anything. There's no reason to think they couldn't stop any criminal with their impressive skillset and seemingly endless bag of tricks. Which means two things you're never in any doubt that they will win, so any threat feels meaningless (especially by the time you get to Full Throttle), and it forces the film into the most utterly preposterous set pieces (again something more prevalent second time round). Suspending your disbelief is an important part of watching films, and the degree to which you need to do so is very much based on how the filmmakers choose to present a story, but these films go beyond that, requiring you to accept everything that's thrown at you. They (just about) get away with it because it's all pitched as fun, but that doesn't stop it becoming frustrating after a while, as one crazy scene leads to yet another. 

Both films are very much defined by the era in which they were released. CGI was getting better, hence the pushing what these girls can do, but it frequently looks like they're standing in front of a green screen. McG's background as a director of music videos is a blessing and a curse. On the plus side there's loads of fun music choices, albeit a little too much obvious signposting of what's on screen through song titles/lyrics, but these both feel like ninety minute music videos. That may entertaining at first, but it's ultimately wearying as they schizophrenically jump all over the place. Both films are rife with cameos, which is a highlight, but the faces popping up definitely date it when watching back in 2017 (this also serves as a cautionary warning that no film ever needed Tom Green being Tom Green!!).

Objectively, neither Charlie's Angels nor Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle are good films, but it's impossible to deny that they aren't somewhat fun to watch. At the time these came out the TV series was a distant memory, but this was a reinvention for the MTV generation. Barrymore, Liu and Diaz are a very enjoyable trio, playing off each other well and bringing unique personalities to each character, and that primarily makes these films watchable – along with the many other decent casting choices (Murray, Moore, Rockwell, Glover, Wilson etc). But the ADD approach becomes tiresome, even if does keep things energetic and the stories moving. The first is the better of the two, but mostly because Full Throttle pushes itself too far into over-the-top territory (living up to it's name). But sometimes fun is just about enough.

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