September 29, 2003 -- “Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle” is a sleazy, trite, vacuous exploitation flick masquerading as a movie. When I saw critic Walter Chaw's review (a quote: “What the picture represents, in a very real way, is the death of cinema”) I thought he was being too harsh. He was being kind. Watching this movie is like being soaked in novocaine. It is a soul-numbing experience. It is not so much a movie as a kind of processed MTV video, with any meaningful images, content, story or intelligence removed.
Not since “Starship Troopers” has there been a film that so obviously aims at juvenile market while pretending to be a movie for adults. The PG-13 rating of the film is a another indicator of how badly the film rating system is broke. The film is an endless parade of boobs and butts, in all senses of those words. The plot is largely incoherent, and is entirely incidental to the movie. Supposedly, the three angel agents, Natalie Cook (Cameron Diaz), Dylan Sanders (Drew Barrymore) and Alex Munday (Lucy Liu) are on the trail of two rings, lost by the government, which contain the secret identities of thousands of people in the government's witness protection program. The three pursue clues with all of the unlikely success, but none of the comic skill, of the late, great Inspector Clouseau of the “Pink Panther” films. They successfully make wild leaps of intuition, while following up clues based on the flimsiest, most ambiguous bits of evidence.
While the first “Charlie's Angels” film was at least fun, this one is tiresome. The fight scenes are not well-staged. The stunts and fights are exaggerated so far beyond believability that they are irrelevant to the plot. In one scene, the “bad angel” Madison Lee (Demi Moore of “G.I. Jane”) confronts the three “good” angels. Instead of attacking, the three angels do flips in the air while Moore shoots them. One wonders why more bad guys don't do this in the film, since the angels are always doing useless flips in the air instead of say, hiding behind something solid. These tiresome flips are also done in slow motion, as is much of the action. What this does is slow down the action scenes. Action scenes should be fast, not slow.
There is plenty of good acting talent in the film, but it all goes to waste. The rule of thumb for this film is, the better the actor, the less the screen time and the worse the role. Among the slighted actors in the film are Bruce Willis, Bernie Mac, Robert Patrick, Matt LeBlanc, Luke Wilson, John Cleese, Robert Forster, Eric Bogosian and Carrie Fisher, all of whom can act and all of whom have appeared in movies or TV shows orders of magnitude better than this film. The three angels, all of whom reprise their roles from the first film, go through the motions required by the script, but fail to create interesting characters. They are, instead, caricatures. For this film, actors and acting are not even required for the roles of the angels. All you really need are some Victoria's Secret models. Models know how to pose, and posing is all that is required of the angels in this film.
Demi Moore's character is like a zombie just released from the surgical makeover factory. She looks great, in an expressionless, robotic, plastic kind of way. One of the bad guys, Seamus O'Grady (Justin Theroux of “Duplex”), is mildly interesting as a jilted former lover who has inexplicably become invulnerable to flames and weapons. O'Grady's invulnerability is one of the more brazen bits of nonsense in the plot, but hardly the only example of it. Crispin Glover, who sparkled as the fierce warrior known as the Thin Man in the first film, returns. However, his character has become a bizarre caricature with utterly inexplicable motivations, other than a hair fetish. He is neither a hero nor a villain, and he has no real place in the story. He simply appears, briefly, for no particular reason, like others in the film. Glover, nonetheless, gives such an intense performance, he is practically the only person in the movie, along with Theroux, worth watching. Naturally, his role in the film is very limited (see the above rule of thumb).
In sum, this is a train wreck of a movie, a protracted, anti-feminist wet t-shirt display, in search of characters, plot and intelligence. It almost seems as if this movie is an experiment to see how badly a movie can be made and still make a profit at the box office. The result of the experiment is: worse than I thought possible. To say it represents the death of cinema, however, is to attribute far too much importance to this movie. If cinema is truly dead, it died long ago. This is just another stone in its sepulcher, and anyone who paid money to see this film, including myself, helped to mortar this stone into place. Yet another sequel is probably being planned at this moment. This movie rates an F.
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