Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle

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Movie review by Greg Carlson

“Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle,” measured against the majority of its summer box office competition, peels out, tires spinning, to take a commanding lead over stiff and stilted killjoys like “Hulk,” “2 Fast 2 Furious,” and “Bruce Almighty,” in the category that counts: big dumb fun. Director McG returns (along with celestial Cameron Diaz, lush Lucy Liu, and darling Drew Barrymore) to do what he does better than the rest – serve up a mind-boggling confection that borders on sensory overload, and make it all look breathlessly easy. McG, whose background as a music video and commercial helmer is a major asset, always keeps an ace up his sleeve: an encyclopedic knowledge of pop culture, ready to be quoted at the drop of a phonograph needle.

Like the first “Charlie’s Angels” movie, the sequel is packed with perfectly-selected pop songs that cover the action like a kind of sonic wallpaper. Ditto the director’s fondness for movie references, which crop up so often it is easy to lose track of just how many are squeezed in (best one: the nod to “Singin’ in the Rain” via a zealous fan at a big movie premiere). Sure, all the finely-tuned style doesn’t leave much room for anything resembling a developed plot, but who cares? Operating like one giant-sized, big-gulp of a music video itself, the story can only serve as an excuse to set up one dazzling action set-piece or spectacular costume change after another.

If “Full Throttle” falls short of the original, it does so on two counts: first, by aping so much of what had been presented in the first movie, and second, by spreading out the screen time among too many diversions. The second criticism is typical of action-comedy or comic book-type sequels (just think of how the Batman franchise finally collapsed under the weight of too many new characters and villains). This time, we have a new Bosley (Bernie Mac, quite serviceable as a replacement for droll Bill Murray), a fallen angel in the form of Demi Moore (whose much-ballyhooed return to the screen amounts to no great shakes), and a round robin of subplots and scenes for the central trio and their boyfriends (Matt LeBlanc and Luke Wilson both return). Even Crispin Glover reprises his role as The Thin Man. Add to that cameos by Bruce Willis, John Cleese, Jaclyn Smith, Pink, and heck, even the Olsen Twins, and you’ve got a few balls to juggle.

The heart and soul of “Charlie’s Angels,” however, remains the relationship of the titular trio, and producer-star Barrymore can be credited with building a team that feels and acts like a family. As preposterous as it seems, the age-old themes of taking care of each other and looking out for your loved ones bubble up through the otherwise glib winks and nudges. These best friends may bond while dressed as nuns or strippers, but their loyalty to each other transcends their wardrobe, no matter how impressive. Teamwork is merely reinforced by color-coordinated get-ups, from neon moto-cross garb to welders’ outfits, and Natalie, Alex, and Dylan have got the looks that kill.

This review was originally published in the High Plains Reader the week of 6/30/03.

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