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Apr 16th
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Heaven ... Then Hell

Charlies-Angels-2-ps01Angels soar, but did the devil steal the plot?

In 1976, I was a fat Polish kid in Chicago. I wore a retainer, had a dysfunctional family and was oddly drawn to Farrah Fawcett. (I figured out the true meaning of that in therapy, but let’s move onto … more about me.)

Charlie’s Angels was the most popular TV series on the tube at the time and I was a pop culture junkie. I created a scrapbook of the Angels, and chronicled the publicity that the actresses, and the show, received over the next five years in a flimsy paper-filled 11 by 17 scrapbook I bought at the local five and dime: Farrah left, Cheryl Ladd came in, Kate Jackson left, Shelley Hack came in—I never thought the producer’s should have dumped Hack, but what can you do?—and after Hack, along came Tanya Roberts. Most everyone seemed drawn to the show and the Angels mystique and mindless appeal. It was purely escapist fare and my scrapbook was a bloated three-volumed beast.

Flashforward to 2000: suddenly ...

... the single-monikered MTV music video director McG bursts onto the scene to direct the big-screen version of Charlie’s Angels. I thought about my scrapbook and had a flashback myself: Chicago, summer of ’91 in; my mother’s getting married for the second time and I fly home to attend; I search for the scrapbook in the old dresser I stored it in when I left for college in the ’80s; the dresser is gone; when I ask my mother about my scrapbook—you know, mom, that big one filled with Charlie’s Angels clippings … that real geeky thing—she tells me she tossed it in the trash ages ago. (I dealt with that in therapy, too.)

It’s the summer of 2003. I’m having another flashback. I’m thinking about my scrapbook and all my hard work while I’m watching nifty little memorabilia being sucked up on E-bay. What on earth would the very first original People magazine cover of Fawcett, Jackson and Smith be worth today? (Therapy time.)

I don’t know what to tell you about Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle that you haven’t already heard. It’s mind-numbingly fun, totally unrealistic yet totally enjoyable—for the most part—at the same time. Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore and Lucy Liu return as Natalie, Dillon and Alex and if the first one tickled you, this one should be just as entertaining. It bursts with nonstop energy thanks, again, to McG’s directing finesse and features newcomer Bernie Mac as the new Bosley—the brother from another mother—along with Demi Moore and Justin Theroux as the villains. It works because the actresses project a no-holds barred, just-have-fun vibe. Last weekend’s opening gross banked about $40 million, a little less than the first Angels scored in its opening, but still impressive.

The film reviewer in me gives it **1/2: the plot—or nonplot—about the disappearance of two rings that contain the 411 on everybody in the witness protection program, is hard to follow with all the action going on and you often find yourself wondering what this film is really about. Yet, the entertainment junkie within says ***. I can’t decide. Have a problem with that? Deal with it in therapy. In the meantime, note all things heavenly and hellish about Chuck’s Cheesy Chicks, Part Deux:

 

Heaven:

Dingbat Dharma: Lighten up. It’s best to just dig into these Angels as you would a huge chunk of devil’s food cake caked with chocolate frosting.

Dancing: Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore and Lucy Liu go retro in an MC Hammer “Don’t Touch This” dance number; La Diaz lovin’ Donna Summer’s “Last Dance.” Kudos to choreographer Robin Anton, who orchestrated the original live stage show “The Pussycat Dolls.” (Wait for the credits, there’s more cheesy fun.)

Ditties: Never hurts to toss in the theme song to Flashdance—no matter how contrived a scene that finds the Angels welding;

Demi Moore: Sure, the script has her so over-the-top by the end of the film that you think her character, fallen Angel Madison Lee, has been pulled out of the last 007 flick. But you can’t but enjoy Moore’s presence on the screen after nearly a half-decade absence.

Danger: It’s around every corner, but nary a bruised rib or bloody nose do these Angels exhibit. Bullets get dodged, asses get kicked, motorcross mania happens. Even Crispin Glover’s return as the hair-yanking-and-sniffing yet mute Thin Man is a bit frightening even though it’s more of a comic hoot.  Cheung-Yan Yuen, Hong Kong’s top fight choreographer worked with all the actresses again and tweaked fighting sequences to match their characters’ personality. The motorcross scenes are a knockout!

Delusions: As the only Angel to appear in all five seasons of the TV show, Jaclyn Smith is a class-act, and, while its great to see her and K-Mart attire here, her cameo leaves us a bit stunned. Drew/Dillon, was that just you dipping into the cooking cherry again or were you going to explain how you really know Kelly Garret?

Directing: Any way you slice it, McG’s flashy directing style make this one of the most entertaining films of the season.

 

Hell:

Jigglevision: It was the term used to mock the original series’ titillating if not vapid plots. But admit it, the campiest and most trendsetting episode found Jill (Farrah Fawcett, God bless her now-frenzied mind) holding onto the back of a speeding pickup as she dangerously skateboarded away from a criminal—or toward a criminal; it’s hard to keep track. Director McG is all over the J here and Cameron Diaz doesn’t mind using her derriere—again—to help him exhibit the post-modern equivalent to the J, known as booty. After a while, you may want to give Diaz, and her runaway booty, the old-fashioned boot.

Justin Theroux’s abs and physique: As the bad boy from Dillon’s past, he’s got revenge on the brain and the brawn to help him carry it out. But, um, J.T. … ever think of getting a day job and venturing out of the Gym? Not that we male viewers would ever be prone to six-pack envy, mind you, but …  Actually, Theroux insisted on intense physical training before McG filmed him: “When I was told I would have my shirt off for many of my scenes, I decided to buff up and trim down,” he’d said. “I get to play the classic unstoppable, unkillable villain, and that’s a blast.” A blast? On second thought J.T., let’s work on taking the vocab out of its freshman-year infancy, shall we?

Jack-ass-ism: The first film may have spawned the success of such female-driven TV shows like Alias, but now it seems as if Alias’ unbeatable heroine has, in turn, given birth to the ultimate and absolutely invincible woman—and in triplicate thank you … and in scenes with stunts you’d find on the TV show Jackass. Sure, McG’s directing can be visually dynamite, but how long can he expect us to linger in fantastia with him? (A spoiler is coming in about 17 words, so turn away.) The film’s finale finds our Angels being thrust off an exploding rooftop and the wood shredded from the explosion somehow lands underneath their flailing-in-midair bodies, specifically right on those designer shoes, to deliver an all-too-perfect makeshift skateboard, which they proceed to use to slide down a rope-like thingamabob, which, somehow, becomes the vine they can hold onto as they pull a Spidey and swing down onto the Hollywood streets. Wait, did we mention that before the impact, that Demi’s bad-girl Madison spreads what appears to be a set of bat-wings and dives off the roof with the ballsy verve of Shelly Winters in the Poseidon Adventure? No worries. There’s more froth—and not misplaced hair by the very last scene, which, in real time, would be, uh, about 11 minutes after surviving car crashes and, well, more explosions. On second thought, it’s really best not to think about it.

 

Experience more at gregarcher.com.

 

 

 

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