By John Liu
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
Good morning, Angels! Sadly, it appears most Angels are still asleep. The first Charlie’s Angels, an action TV series starring three ladies with a focus on sex appeal, was released in 1976. In 2000, a movie reboot starring Lucy Liu, Cameron Diaz, and Drew Barrymore was a box office success with the same cheesy dialogue, action, and provocative scenes. Sixteen years later, Elizabeth Banks, the director, writer, and producer, who has a starring role in Charlie’s Angels, has a monumental task of making these Angels relevant today.
The new Charlie’s Angels acts as a sequel, where the Townsend Agency has gone international and Angels are everywhere. Charlie Townsend’s identity is still a mystery. The movie starts out with a montage of random women growing up while performing miscellaneous empowering roles. This really sets the feminist tone for the entire movie and can be off-putting to some.
Sabina Wilson (Kristen Stewart), who we know is an Angel from the trailer, is having a conversation with Jonny Smith (Chris Pang) about a woman’s role in society and this whole conversation feels shoehorned in to fit the feminist narrative. As Sabina starts beating up Jonny, multiple Angels swing in and take out Jonny’s bodyguards.
John Bosley (Patrick Stewart) walks in and congratulates the Angels for taking care of the situation. The next scene shifts to John Bosely and the other Bosleys are throwing him a retirement party. We discover Elizabeth Banks is also a Bosley.
Then we are introduced to Elena Houghlin (Ella Balinska), a programmer on the Calisto project, who is having a private meeting with her boss Peter Fleming (Nat Faxon). Elena explains these Alexa-like devices with a sustainable energy source named Calisto can be hacked through their blockchain to murder people and leave no evidence. Ridiculous, but we’ll let it slide for the sake of the movie! Peter tells Elena to keep quiet and not tell anyone about Calisto’s flaw. Out of nowhere, Elena finds a Charlie’s Angels business card and meets with Edgar Bosley (Djimon Hounsou). During their meeting, an assassin tries to kill them, but luckily Jane Kano (Naomi Scott) is undercover and deals with him.
The first and second act was boring and filled with action genre cliches and tropes.
There is the trademark explosion, which does only enough damage to knock someone out. Some deaths in the movie were unexpectedly dark for a PG-13 movie, but I can’t divulge without spoiling the movie. The only redeeming quality is the third act, which I found enjoyable and had some great cameos.
The chemistry between the three Angels seemed genuine. Sabina throws a bunch of one liners throughout the movie that were mostly a miss for me, but I heard ladies in the audience laughing at the majority of lines in the movie. The only joke that really hit home was one regarding superheroes. Go figure! Jane and Sabina have some touching moments, and Ella Balinksa’s performance as Elena is decent for her first big screen feature.
The two Asians in the movie were very entertaining. Naomi Scott, who is hot off the heels of her explosive Jasmine portrayal in Aladdin, has some major screen time here with Kristen Stewart. Naomi was doing flying kicks all over the place and charming on screen. Jonny Smith (Chris Pang) and Patrick Stewart were the only male characters I liked in this film. Jonny has an interesting role as a “smooth” talker with some cringey dialogue that gets outwitted by Sabina a few times.
The new Charlie’s Angels song, Don’t Call Me Angel, released two months ago featuring Ariana Grande, Miley Cyrus, and Lana Del Rey, just does not measure up to the 2010 Independent Woman by Destiny’s Child. The new song is incoherent and weird, and hearing it once was more than enough. I still enjoy listening to Independent Woman whenever it comes on.
I give props to Elizabeth Banks for being the writer, producer, and director, and starring in this movie, but I felt the Charlie’s Angels IP was too risky to bring back at this time. The movie paid the price at the box office during its opening weekend with an extremely low $8.35 million.
John can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.