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
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 Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott and Ella Balinska step into the lead roles originally made famous by Farrah Fawcett, Kate Jackson and Jaclyn Smith, who were followed by Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore and Lucy Liu.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.
Kristen Stewart, Ella Balinska and Naomi Scott star in the latest incarnation of Charlie’s Angels