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‘Charlie’s Angels’ get their wings

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Did we really need another “Charlie’s Angels” movie?

It’s not surprising, really; the basic concept is certainly ripe for revisiting in this current era of IP-driven franchise-building. And in case you’re wondering, yes – this new film is intended as a sequel of sorts to the two “Charlie’s Angels” films from 15 years ago, rather than a reboot.

But the question remains: why?

That said, the actual result is better than it has any right to be. Not great, but OK. It’s probably safe to assume that much of the credit for that has to go to Elizabeth Banks, who not only directed the film but also makes her feature debut as a screenwriter. Oh, and she’s in it as well. So yeah – this is very much an Elizabeth Banks joint.

We first meet Sabina (Kristen Stewart, “Seberg”) and Jane (Ella Balinska, TV’s “The Athena”) in Rio as they execute an operation to take down a high-end financial criminal on behalf of the legendary Townsend Agency. The op is run by Bosley (Patrick Stewart, “The Kid Who Would Be King”), who is on the verge of retirement.

It’s at his farewell party that we learn that Bosley is actually a code name for those who manage operations for the Townsend Agency – there are MANY Bosleys, including this Bosley’s replacement (Banks). Far from its relatively humble California-based origins, the Agency is now an international player, one devoted to helping those who need it the most.

A year later, a young woman named Elena (Naomi Scott, “Aladdin”) needs help. She works at a tech company and has developed a clean energy alternative code-named Calisto. However, there are some dangerous flaws in the design – flaws that she could fix with time. However, her superior Peter Fleming (Nat Faxon, TV’s “Disenchantment”) refuses to take the matter up with the company’s owner Alexander Brock (Sam Claflin, TV’s “Peaky Blinders”).

Elena winds up meeting with the area’s current Bosley (Djimon Hounsou, “Shazam!”) – with Jane and Sabina serving as backup – but an attempt on her life by a mysterious assassin (Jonathan Tucker, TV’s “City on a Hill”) leads to tragedy.

Sabina and Jane take Elena under their wing, but it soon becomes clear that there are people out there who will stop at nothing to ensure that Calisto remains in their control. The three women are left unsure who they can trust, able to count on no one … except one another.

What follows is a globe-spanning caper, one that takes full advantage of the apparently infinite resources of the Townsend Agency. From Brazil to France to Germany to Turkey and on and on, the Angels are prepared to do whatever it takes to keep Calisto from falling into the wrong hands.

Look – no one walks into a “Charlie’s Angels” movie expecting high art. But as far as multi-quadrant popcorn fare goes? You could honestly do a lot worse. This movie is spirited and fun, driven by a goofy enthusiasm with which you can’t help but engage. It is full of explosive set pieces and dumb jokes and everyone involved genuinely seems to be having the time of their lives; that sort of enthusiasm goes a long way toward ensuring an enjoyable experience.

Banks has her fingerprints all over every aspect of this film – and that’s a good thing. She’s always been a gifted performer, but she wasn’t necessarily someone I’d have pegged as an action-comedy auteur. Shows what I know. Considering this is only her second feature in the director’s chair and her first screenplay, this is an impressive effort – making movies of this scale is no easy feat.

Am I going to sit here and call this the “Citizen Kane” of “Charlie’s Angels” movies? Reader, you know I am.

Much like the TV show and the previous film adaptations, “Charlie’s Angels” lives and dies on the work of the titular Angels. This film’s leads might not have the same star power as that generated by the Diaz/Liu/Barrymore trio, but they acquit themselves well enough. Kristen Stewart is delightful as Sabina, continuing to prove all those who maligned her abilities (myself included) wrong; she’s got a real spark here that helps carry the movie. Balinska handles herself well throughout, though she particularly shines in the action sequences. And Scott offers up a wide-eyed damsel in distress vibe that evolves nicely over the course of the film. The three together are great fun.

The supporting cast is surprisingly strong as well. Banks offers her usual high-quality character work. Stewart is charming and grumpy in a wonderful way. Hounsou is given very little to do, but enjoys doing it. Faxon is suitably smug, as is Claflin; Tucker’s silent-but-deadly assassin is spot-on. Oh, and Luis Gerardo Mendez absolutely steals a couple of scenes as the Townsend Agency’s wellness consultant Saint.

“Charlie’s Angels” feels unnecessary. That doesn’t make it bad, though. The truth is that it has no right to be as entertaining as it is; it’s well-made, with some strong set pieces, decent jokes and good performances. Most of all, there’s a sense of fun to the whole thing – and fun goes a long way. If you’re looking for a good time at the movies, you could do much worse.

[3 out of 5]

Last modified on Tuesday, 19 November 2019 06:57

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