Charlie’s Angels (2000)

(In theaters, November 2000) Halfway through the film, I leaned over to a friend and whispered “I can’t decide whether this is getting better or worse” and that will stand as a nutshell review. On one level, it’s one of the worst blockbusters of 2000: Hyperactive editing, sexist imagery, thin characters and one of the most incoherent script seen so far. On the other hand, it’s directed with such reckless audaciousness and played with such bouncy abandon that it’s hard not to be swept along with the fun. The film starts in high gear and never lets up. Film students will go bonkers trying to decode the cinematic techniques used by director “McG”, as he throws everything at the screen, often at the same time. Surprisingly or not, Charlie’s Angels pushes back the cinematic techniques at a pace comparable to the more “serious” filmmakers. What helps to swallow the disjointed script (obviously written on-the-fly, as demonstrated by out-of-nowhere sequences like the car chase) is an intermittent self-awareness that winks at the audience. Also notable is the great soundtrack, which often doubles as ironic commentary (the use of The Prodigy’s “Smack my bitch up” during a fight scene between the thin man and the three angels is either a product of complete cluelessness or subversive brilliance) Despite a reportedly difficult shooting, all of the four main players look like they’re having as much fun as we do: Lucy Liu and Cameron Diaz are adorable as always, Bill Murray is his usual dependable self and Drew Barrymore is surprisingly good. (A mention goes to Crispin Glover in a silent, but effective, role) Charlie’s Angels will probably remain as a film that gets no respect, but tons of fans.

(Second viewing, On DVD, July 2001) I’ll admit that this isn’t a movie for everyone. Animated with a hyperkinetic energy that tramples down any attempt at conventional criticism, Charlie’s Angels nevertheless features a basic self-awareness that helps a lot in respecting the film for what it is, and the DVD version of the movie confirms many suspicions in this regard. Surprisingly, the film is almost as much fun on a second viewing, mostly because there’s never a dull moment. The editing is rapid but not chaotic, the directing is much better than initially apparent (watch for those lengthy single shots, a clear indicator that director “McG” is more than your usual music-video director) and the overall sense of fun simply doesn’t let go. Great action sequences, a fabulous soundtrack and oodles of sex-appeal are the icing on the cake. Dig down through the plentiful extra features on the DVD, and you’ll understand why the film works so well: The lively audio commentary makes it clear that everyone involved in the film knew they were doing a comic-book film, and they’re justifiably proud of what they achieved. No social relevance; just fun. Worth not only a look, but a second look.

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