Review: Charlie’s Angels (2019)

Charlie’s Angels (2019)

Directed by: Elizabeth Banks | 118 minutes | action, comedy | Actors: Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott, Ella Balinska, Elizabeth Banks, Patrick Stewart, Djimon Hounsou, Sam Claflin, Jonathan Tucker, Nat Faxon, Chris Pang, Luis Gerardo Méndez, Noah Centineo, David Schütter, Hannah Hoekstra,

They symbolize true ‘girl power’; Charlie’s Angels. Three gorgeous, sexy private detectives who change every once in a while and fight through all kinds of evil scum in between those dressing ups. Producer Aaron Spelling, who made a lot of money from the television series from the seventies, even once described his hit series in that way, because the series had little to do with content. But for Farrah Fawcett, Jaclyn Smith and Kate Jackson, the original Angels, the series was pivotal in their careers. The series stopped in 1981 and was subsequently more or less reviled for years for its undisguised sexism. Because although ‘girl power’ is preached, it was mainly a party for horny men who marveled at three beautiful women. It wasn’t until 2000, when all that was retro was being embraced, that none other than Drew Barrymore saw bread in a remake of ‘Charie’s Angels’ (2000). She drummed up friends Cameron Diaz and Lucy Liu for an entertaining remake, in which the three of them in constantly changing (and often very spectacular) outfits move from one situation to another and are allowed to indulge in flashy action scenes. You’ll forget what it’s about in no time, because the plot is quite incoherent and it isn’t exciting at all. But the fun that the three protagonists have and the effervescent energy that radiates from them makes up for a lot. The sequel ‘Full Throttle’ (2003) is of the same kind and a failed TV series died an inglorious death in 2011 after only seven episodes, but then the ‘Angels’ faded into obscurity.

Until 2019. At a time when Hollywood is ravaged by creative poverty and countless studios out of sheer poverty but are reinventing successful songs from the past, this ‘classic’ was also pulled from the dust again. The motor behind this reboot, which builds on the successful films with Barrymore, Diaz and Liu and is part of the same universe, is Elizabeth Banks, who we mainly know as an actress from the film series ‘The Hunger Games’ and ‘Pitch Perfect’. She not only produced the film, but also directs it (this is the second film she directs, after 2015’s ‘Pitch Perfect 2’), makes her screenwriter debut and plays a major role. You can rightfully call ‘Charlie’s Angels’ (2019) her film. Banks expressed her ambition by proclaiming that this film could be the beginning of a true feminist franchise. Because, she stated, almost all blockbusters and successful action films revolve around male heroes and if – as in ‘Wonder Woman’ (2017) and ‘Captain Marvel’ (2019) – then a female action hero emerges who achieves success. , then according to Banks these are still films that primarily focus on a mainly male target group. With ‘Charlie’s Angels’ she wanted to cater to the female part of the audience, but the film’s yield was very disappointing. Whether there will be a franchise remains to be seen.

So is ‘Charlie’s Angels’ a bad movie? Bad might not be the right word, because the criticism we had of the 2000 and 2003 films applies here as well. On the one hand, the story is childishly simple, but you get completely lost after fifteen minutes, after which you just marvel at the (fragmentary) action sequences and dressing up. Bottom line: Scientist Elena Houghlin (Naomi Scott, who we know from ‘Aladdin’ (2019)) has invented a revolutionary energy source called Calisto, which can do a lot of harm if it falls into the wrong hands. For example, in that of her rather sexist boss Alexander Brock (Sam Claflin) and her devious colleague Peter Fleming (Nat Faxon). She decides to ring the bell and call in the Townsend Agency, which has Angels roaming around the world to make sure that justice is done. Via the ‘Bosley’ – the contact person – on site (the ‘Bosleys’ are played by Patrick Stewart, Djimon Hounsou and Banks himself) she is linked to Sabina Wilson (Kristen Stewart) and Jane Kano (Ella Balinksa). The trio goes to war and travels the world to make sure the Calisto doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. Women ‘run the world’ in the ‘Charlie’s Angels’ universe, and we will know that too. Elizabeth Banks makes no secret of the fact that women are still oppressed and underestimated, but in her world, women are seizing power. There’s nothing a man can do that a woman couldn’t. In itself a good, positive message, which, however, would be more effective if it were served a little more subtly.

Just like the films from 2000 and 2003, ‘Charlie’s Angels’ is a sequence of separate scenes in which the three protagonists are allowed to indulge themselves. Just like those earlier films, there is little cohesion and the actresses have to keep the film upright with their charms. Not exactly the most feminist premise, but that aside. Barrymore, Diaz and Liu had a blast, which made the film enjoyable. The mutual chemistry and dynamics are significantly less in this new version. Not that the actresses are doing badly, and Stewart certainly enjoys the role of party animal Sabina, but unfortunately there is no synergy. Banks’ directing also leaves a lot to be desired, especially in the messy and carelessly edited action scenes. Add to that the unenthusiastic script and the nagging at that feminist message and you understand why ‘Charlie’s Angels’ underperformed in the cinemas.

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