CHAR­LIE’S AN­GELS’ CON­STANT LAUGHS MAKE UP FOR ITS SHORT­COM­INGS

▶ Some of the re­boot falls flat, but the ac­tion-packed fi­nale is worth stick­ing around for, writes Gre­gory Wake­man

The National - News - - ARTS & LIFESTYLE -

Char­lie’s An­gels

Stars: Kristen Ste­wart, Naomi Scott and Ella Balin­ska

Di­rec­tor: El­iz­a­beth Banks

★★★☆☆

Within the past decade, seis­mic changes to the cin­e­matic land­scape have left pretty much ev­ery Hol­ly­wood stu­dio, bar Dis­ney, in a bind. The in­flux of stream­ing ser­vices, the con­tin­ued ex­cel­lence of the small screen, and the smaller win­dow be­tween the­atri­cal and home en­ter­tain­ment re­leases mean au­di­ences now need a re­ally good rea­son to leave the house to watch a movie. As a re­sult, the likes of 20th Cen­tury Fox, Warner Bros, Para­mount and Sony have re­peat­edly spent hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars adapting es­tab­lished fran­chises and in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty in an at­tempt to at­tract and build upon their fan­bases.

In re­cent years, Sony has proven rather adept at recog­nis­ing holes in the movie mar­ket, then fill­ing them with new, big-screen ver­sions of the likes of Cloudy with a Chance of Meat­balls, The Equal­izer, 21 Jump Street, Goose­bumps, The An­gry Birds Movie, Peter Rab­bit, Ju­manji

and Spi­der-Man: Into the Spi­der-Verse. Each of these has been so suc­cess­ful that it’s been, or soon will be, fol­lowed by a se­quel.

Sony is look­ing to con­tinue this suc­cess with Char­lie’s

An­gels, a semi-re­boot set in the same world as both the beloved 1970s ac­tion se­ries and the two movies from the early 2000s. Kristen Ste­wart, Naomi Scott and Ella Balin­ska step into the lead roles orig­i­nally made fa­mous by Far­rah Fawcett, Kate Jack­son and Ja­clyn Smith, who were fol­lowed by Cameron Diaz, Drew Bar­ry­more and Lucy Liu.

In the 2019 in­car­na­tion, writer and di­rec­tor El­iz­a­beth Banks, who also has a prom­i­nent role in the film, re­veals how the three ladies met and worked to­gether to be­come Char­lie’s An­gels. And, de­spite some un­even­ness, Banks does a pretty im­pres­sive job of com­bin­ing the ac­tion and com­edy, while the film is pow­ered by a proud fem­i­nist mes­sage through­out.

Ad­mit­tedly, it takes a while for Char­lie’s An­gels to find its feet. Only dur­ing the en­joy­ably hec­tic fi­nale does the ac­tion-com­edy re­ally feel like the crowd-pleaser it has tried so hard to be for the pre­vi­ous 90 min­utes, as the three leads and the strong sup­port­ing cast – which in­cludes Pa­trick Ste­wart, Noah Cen­ti­neo and Sam Claflin – come to­gether to en­hance and build upon what’s come be­fore. Even its clos­ing cred­its se­quence does ex­actly that. It is so de­light­ful that you’ll leave the cin­ema hop­ing for a fol­low-up solely so you can see these An­gels have even more ad­ven­tures in the fu­ture.

Un­til that point, though,

Char­lie’s An­gels never quite man­ages to gen­uinely cap­ti­vate or feel worth­while. Banks packs the film with more than enough set pieces, as the ladies go on a high-speed car chase in Ham­burg, ex­pertly break into a re­search lab, then fight at a Turk­ish race­course and quarry in quick suc­ces­sion, all se­quences that are ad­e­quately as­sem­bled and gen­tly en­ter­tain­ing. But

Char­lie’s An­gels is way­laid by a nonex­is­tent plot, and while there are two twists, they don’t come close to land­ing the ex­pected im­pact and in­stead only de­flate what has come be­fore.

For­tu­nately for Banks and

Char­lie’s An­gels, though, it is con­stantly saved by Ste­wart, who steals ev­ery scene she ap­pears in with her hi­lar­i­ous per­for­mance as Sabina Wil­son. Banks, a vet­eran of the com­edy genre, uses Ste­wart per­fectly, while the ac­tress revels in be­ing the comedic re­lief, and as a re­sult in­jects an en­ergy and ca­ma­raderie that means that even at its worst, Char­lie’s An­gels is at least watch­able.

Scott, in her role as Elena Hough­lin, the engi­neer who helped to de­sign but then ex­pose the dan­ger­ous piece of tech­nol­ogy the An­gels are try­ing to de­stroy, she proves why she is one of the most promis­ing young ac­tors work­ing in Hol­ly­wood to­day.

She holds her own along­side Ste­wart and Banks, each of whom has al­most a decade’s worth of main­stream ex­pe­ri­ence on the Power Rangers and

Aladdin ac­tress, while man­ag­ing to make the tran­si­tion from strong-willed in­tel­lec­tual to over­whelmed An­gels mentee to bona fide hero­ine seam­lessly, too.

At the be­gin­ning and also dur­ing the mid­dle, Char­lie’s

An­gels is at its best when Banks, Ste­wart and Scott are in the pic­ture, es­pe­cially as Balin­ska has some teething prob­lems as Jane Kano. The 23-year-old, who makes her main­stream de­but with Char­lie’s An­gels, is dis­tract­ingly flat un­til the fi­nal act, in which she dis­plays an ath­leti­cism and pres­ence that shows ex­actly why she was cast.

In a way, Balin­ska’s tra­jec­tory per­fectly em­bod­ies the en­tire ex­pe­ri­ence of watch­ing

Char­lie’s An­gels, which, even though it has some ob­vi­ous short­com­ings, ul­ti­mately has enough hu­mour, heart and good in­ten­tions to make up for them and lays the foun­da­tions for more ad­ven­tures to fol­low.

Sony Pic­tures

Kristen Ste­wart, Ella Balin­ska and Naomi Scott star in the lat­est in­car­na­tion of Char­lie’s An­gels

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