Released: 14th November
Seen: 18th November
In 1976 the world was introduced to three female private detectives who worked for a mysterious man who they would never actually meet. That man was Charlie and they were his angels, the show Charlie’s Angels would become an instant smash hit, spending the first two seasons in the top 10 most-watched shows of the year and it became iconic almost instantly. 20 million viewers tuned in to watch a trio of strong women kick ass, it was a monster hit that even achieved the rare feat of creating an influential hairstyle trend. It lasted for 5 years and there were multiple attempts to revive the brand, eventually culminating in a pair of films in the early 2000s that did amazing business but badly with critics. Well, time for them to revive the brand again because we are never permitted to allow a brand to die even when no one wants it anymore (and judging by the box office… oh damn this brand should’ve died long ago)
Charlie’s Angels (2019) has us following Elena Houghlin (Naomi Scott) who has contacted the angels for help. See, Elena works for a tech company and built a device known as Calisto which is designed to create electricity out of essentially nothing. It’s a potentially world-changing device that could help millions, it just has one tiny flaw. Insignificant really, not even worth mentioning… except it can be easily hacked to trigger fatal seizures in anyone nearby, making it the world’s most impressive weapon (I mean personally if I wanted to trigger fatal seizures in people randomly, I’d just have them sit in front of Incredibles 2 but that’s just me. No, I will never let that go). When she does go to the Angel’s for help, they quickly learn that someone’s sent an assassin after her to stop her from talking about what the device can do (even though she’s also the only one who can do the programming, but no one knows that yet because of sexism). She ends up in the care of two angels, Jane Karo (Ella Balinska) and Sabina Wilson (Kristen Stewart) who are going to help her try to get the Calisto prototypes back so they can hopefully prevent them from being used for evil. Maybe they could be used instead to make this movie better? Maybe.
The movie isn’t bad but dear god it’s nowhere near its actual potential. Let’s just begin with the positives and work our way down. The cast is incredible, especially the three angels. Kristen Stewart is a standout, she steals every scene she’s in and every line of dialogue she’s given is hilarious. I have been waiting to finally get on board with a Kristen Stewart performance and today I got that experience so thank you. Ella Balinska is a genuinely great comedic foil for Kristen to bounce off of and she is so good at the ass-kicking scenes that it’s almost unfair. She has to be the steady rock the film relies on to get the job done and she’s something special. Then there’s Naomi Scott who keeps being incredible even when she’s given average material. She was great in Power Rangers and Aladdin and now in this, can someone PLEASE get this woman a movie where she can create an original character from scratch and have the movie’s quality match hers because she deserves it. The three of them bounce off each other so well and the scenes where they get to have fun together and do some mission are the high points of the film. They even have a great supporting cast to help them, with fun turns from Elizabeth Banks, Patrick Stewart and even Noah Centineo who all get some good moments… just not many of them in the last two cases.
The problems kick in with the film forgetting some of its major characters for large chunks of time. The story is one of espionage and double-crosses but except for the angels, Banks and maybe one assassin, major elements of the scheme appear twice at the most and not in a way that’s memorable enough for the audience to care when it suddenly becomes relevant again. Not spoiling anything here but Noah Centineo’s character is kind of a major portion of the movie, and he gets 3 scenes. He appears wordlessly with Naomi at the start, he then pops up in the middle of the film to basically flirt with one of the Angels, then he’s kidnapped and we’re meant to care except we don’t because he’s said exactly 5 lines up to that point and I barely even realized he was in the film when he pops out of a wardrobe with tape on his mouth. This happens a lot, things happen that we’re clearly meant to care about but we don’t because they never felt set up properly. They don’t feel set up because the plot is so convoluted with so many twists and double-crosses that at the end it’s hard to follow what’s going on. What’s worse is the twists don’t even really work that well, they don’t land with a proper shocking punch because they weren’t set up properly.
Visually the film is kind of hit and miss too. Sometimes there are genuinely great action scenes, including a fight scene in a rock quarry where all the angels show off what they can do and one of the fights causes a computer to keep being hit which, in turn, causes certain tools in the quarry to move around randomly. That scene and others like it, genuinely impressive. Then they’ll do horrible looking PhotoShops of Patrick Stewart to make it look like he was with the OG angels or have a weird flashing title card for Istanbul that’s not done for any other location change and it’s just jarring. Some of the effects work great, others look awful and it’s a crapshoot for which is going to even be worth looking at. The car chases aren’t even that interesting and maybe I’m spoiled after Ford v Ferrari but when a car chase doesn’t get my heart pumping, that’s not a good sign. The scenes that work are genuinely exciting, but they’re broken up by these visually boring moments that just do nothing for me.
Do you know what’s sad? With no shade intended, the best part of this film happens during the credits. Seriously, there are end credits scenes that show a recruit going through training and they have cameos by people like Ronda Rousey, Danica Patrick and Laverne Cox as the instructors and I was beaming ear to ear. Why wasn’t that the movie? Why wasn’t the movie just about a new recruit going through training? Get a bunch of cameos from some amazing women, maybe even the three other movie Angels, and have some fun with the property. This film almost seems to be taking itself seriously and… I mean, the original series wasn’t exactly serious. It got the reputation of being (pardon the expression) “Jiggle TV” because all anyone seemed to watch it for was sex appeal. It was never a serious show, why not lean into the inherent silliness of the show? The end credits scene? I wanted more of that… hell, I would be so happy if someone took the cheesy tie in YouTube video Ru’s Angels and did something with that. Go broader, go bigger, have more fun with it and it could’ve been something special.
As it is, Charlie’s Angels is an overly serious mess that has moments of potential brilliance snuffed out by not committing to its actual potential. I wanted nothing more than to love this, I wanted to be sitting there cheering like no one else and laughing and smiling the entire way through but instead I had bursts of happiness that were almost instantly followed by me going “Wait, when did you get here?” to a major character. It’s not bad, it’s just disappointing because I know this could’ve been so much better and had so much actual potential but they just didn’t get it right.
…Oh, also, the tie in song “Don’t Call Me Angel” is awful and I’ll be very happy if I never hear it again.
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