Unlike some long in the tooth franchises, Charlie’s Angels isn’t necessarily a dated property. If anything a film about three highly skilled women kicking tail seems just as relevant today as it did back in the mid-70s. So why does this 2019 update feel less than heavenly?
Maybe it’s because the film plays out like the origin of an Angel as a way to let the audience in on a concept most know well enough? It’s not really complicated to sum up — a trio of female James Bonds battle crooks.
Charlie’s Angels Director/writer/co-star Elizabeth Banks seems unsure which direction she wanted to go with this iteration of the franchise. Does she want more of a comedic, tongue-in-cheek take or a mostly serious effort with the occasional laugh? The tone is really all over the place, which is a shame as either way could have worked and it’s more of a matter of Banks just settling on one and sticking with it.
Whistleblower Elena Houghlin (Naomi Scott, Aladdin) wants to prevent the release of dangerous new tech and finds herself brought in to the world of the Townsend Agency as dangerous assassins try to take her out. Good thing the Angels are on the case. Jane (Ella Balinska) and Sabina (Kristen Stewart, Still Alice) come to her rescue guided by their mentor, Bosely (Banks).
I hate the notion that it’s a lack of star power. Most franchises don’t start off with stars. The franchise typically makes the star. How many studios were clamoring for Vin Diesel to headline their films before Fast and the Furious?
There’s some chemistry missing with the three leads to some degree. It’s not that there’s some obvious tension, but more Balinska, Scott and Stewart don’t always seem on the same page as to how their characters are supposed to play off each other in certain scenes. There’s a dramatic shift from slightly annoyed and antagonistic to suddenly being BFFs.
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After her initial rough introduction to the Angels, Elena wants in on the team as they travel the world trying to stop the tech from being nabbed by a silent assassin (Jonathan Tucker) and give a head’s up to her boss (Sam Claflin, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire).
Banks doesn’t do a great job distinguishing the Angels based on their skill sets relying more on their personalities to make them stand out. Jane is the stuffy professional, Sabina is the free-wheeling, no filter character and Elena is the regular genius hacker that’s a staple in all action films these days.
At 5’10” Balinska really has a physical presence and best reflects the supermodels kicking tail mindset. Stewart is game for playing the sillier member, but a lot of her material feels like it’s written with the intention of being funny and not just being funny. Patrick Stewart and Djimon Hounsou make glorified cameos while Noah Centineo’s character feels largely abandoned midway through the film only to return for the final act.
One avenue where the film fails is not properly reflecting its time. The 70s show reflected the action sensibilities of shows like The Six Million Dollar Man and Mission: Impossible while McG’s films liberally borrowed The Matrix style of action.
No, the Angels don’t need to start flying around using superpowers as there’s plenty of action films it could use as its barometer beyond comic book films for this era. Banks’ take lacks the explosive balls-out action of a Hobbs & Shaw and lacks the crazy set pieces of the Tom Cruise Mission: Impossible films.
The action sequences Banks does provide are decent enough, but nothing so thrilling that it feels worthy of the big screen experience. Maybe this would be balanced out if the Angels were cool, but a dance sequence that goes on way too long ruins the chances of that with each second.
Nothing really stands out here with this take of the Angels as it mainly feels like the origin film for a better movie we’ll never get thanks to the lackluster returns with this attempt to dust off the halos.
Rating: 5 out of 10
Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures