Published Nov 01, 2000In the early moments of "Charlie's Angels," an airplane carrying LL Cool J presents its in-flight film: "TJ Hooker: The Movie." Great, he comments, another crappy movie based on an old TV show. It's a good early indication of how "Charlie's Angels," based on a 70s TV show old enough that most of its target demographic has never seen it, will be handling the proceedings with tongue firmly planted in cheek.
What immediately follows is also indicative of the film's approach in a moment stolen directly from the big screen adaptation of "Mission: Impossible," LL Cool J's face is peeled off to reveal current Angel and film producer Drew Barrymore, and the genre-stealing action film referencing doesn't let up for the duration.
"Charlie's Angels" is quite good and a lot of fun on a number of levels, and its sense of humour is foremost. Whether its Cameron Diaz's "Soul Train" dreams of being a dancing queen, Lucy Liu's pathetic cooking and her sad little cover story to her actor boyfriend ("Friend" Matt LeBlanc), Drew Barrymore's on-again, off-again affair with a pathetic boy toy named Chad (played by her current paramour, Tom Green, whom she met on set), the "Angels" play action for fun. The film also casts for laughs. Bill Murray as Angel wrangler Bosley plays not only on his own comic genius, but on his extensive history as a bumbling fool; similarly, the mere presence of a well-known nut-job like Crispin Glover (as a constantly smoking hit-man sidekick) serves as its own joke.
In this spirit of good-natured fun, "Charlie's Angels" proceeds to steal from nearly every action film ever made. "Mission: Impossible" gets well worked over, as does the martial arts spirit of "The Matrix," but James Bond, "The Great Escape," and endless others are constantly raked over the coals, with a few seconds of era-appropriate music dropped in to make sure the reference isn't missed. Like a well-crafted satire, the film references so furiously and so quickly that if one falls flat, there are three more just around the corner. And like a DJ who drops a popular refrain just to invoke an audience response, it's almost impossible not to get caught up in the film's feel good spirit.
But what you won't get caught up in is the film's plot, and that prevents "Charlie's Angels" from having a lasting impact. More superficial and contrived than your average Bond flick, its only purpose seems to be to move the scenario along as quickly as possible coherence or plausibility go out the window in favour of high energy butt kicking or butt wiggling.
"Charlie's Angels" also plays its sexual politics on both sides of the fence, with odd, yet interesting results. There's a clear "girls kick ass" agenda happening from the outset, both from the Angels themselves, but also on the villainous side from baddie Kelly Lynch ("Drugstore Cowboy"). They are in full control of their sexual powers, and often use them to manipulate the men around them, but the cleavage-baring sleaziness is oddly exploitative at the same time. And unlike any and every other action movie on the planet, there's nary a gun to be found, at least in the hands of the Angels. It's a worthy message that might go unnoticed amongst the hit-machine soundtrack, attention deficient high speed action editing, and giggles and thrill ride momentum. It's movie junk food fun, guilty, a little naughty, but ultimately not very fulfilling and certainly not good for you. And after its all over, you might feel a little sick.