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'Charlie's Angels' Has More Bounce Than Kick

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 3, 2000


    Charlie's Angels Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz, and Lucy Liu are feminine forces to be reckoned with in "Charlie's Angels." (Darren Michaels/Columbia Pictures)
"Charlie's Angels," a tarted-up but tedious reprise of the '70s TV series, marries the martial arts of "The Matrix" with the cutesiness of a prepubescent slumber party. Like the original trio of long-lashed private eyes, the new Angels are butt-kicking Barbies who do the bidding of an enigmatic off-screen millionaire (voiced now as then by John Forsythe).

Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz and Lucy Liu have no trouble fitting into the high-heeled gumshoes of Farrah Fawcett, Jaclyn Smith and Kate Jackson. They have also mastered the patented slow motion hair-toss, a sight gag in keeping with the movie's mocking tone and the actresses' fanny-flaunting playfulness.

Despite the efforts of 17 writers (only three are credited), the script depends more upon cheeks than tongues. That turns out to be a blessing, for the bountiful booty shots are less annoying than the clunky double-entendres ("My hands aren't going anywhere near your staff"). Although compared with much of the stale dialogue ("If that got into the wrong hands . . ."), that's one zippy comeback.

The movie introduces the Angels in a series of impossibly daring action sequences that would be right at home in a James Bond thriller. But although they have been well choreographed by Cheung-Yan Yuen (whose brother did the honors in "The Matrix"), the elaborate stunts and acrobatic fight scenes were tired long before the Angels were resurrected.

Here the ladies and their sidekick, Bosley (fitfully amusing Bill Murray), are hired to solve the kidnapping of Eric Knox (Sam Rockwell), a software entrepreneur. Possible culprits include: a grasping media mogul (Tim Curry), the menacing Thin Man (Crispin Glover) and Knox's concerned colleague (Kelly Lynch).

When they are not pursuing evil, the detectives check in on their respective love interests – Liu's action film star (Matt LeBlanc), Diaz's waiter (Luke Wilson) and Barrymore's tugboat captain (the actress's real-life beau, Tom Green). The men serve the same decorative function as their female counterparts in testosterone-driven action comedies. That's certainly empowering, but don't go burning those Wonderbras just yet.

Although these Angels have mastered kickboxing, they really haven't progressed much beyond TV's toothsome triad. Actually, they are even more blatantly sexual in their approach to crime solving. In one case, Barrymore (the daffy one) unbuttons her blouse, slithers into a limo and licks her lips to distract the driver, while Liu (the bitchy one) sneaks something from the trunk. If Barrymore's so handy with her fists, wouldn't it be a whole lot faster and less trouble just to bust his chops?

On the other hand, the movie gives Diaz (the adorable one) a chance to spoof the obligatory display of cleavage. At one point she and her partners have just emerged from the sea in their wet suits when Diaz realizes she is not showing enough skin and unzips her clingy ensemble down to her navel. It's not exactly hilarious, but at least she tries.

The movie is directed by McG, a first-timer best known for his dancing Gap ads and music videos. He tries to fill up the empty spaces with loud music and costume changes – everything from belly-dancer drag to lasses in lederhosen. But his Angels are all dressed up and going nowhere.

Charlie's Angels (92 minutes, at area theaters) is rated PG-13 for sexual innuendo, cartoonish violence and profanity.


Copyright 2000 The Washington Post Company

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