*******Spoilers for Charlie’s Angels Below*******
Charlie’s Angels is told mostly from the perspective of Elena Houghlin (Naomi Scott). Elena is a young engineer who blows the whistle her employer as they’re about to go to market with an untested device that has the potential to be used for nefarious purposes. As you’d expect, it shortly falls into the wrong hands after Elena goes to the Angels for help. With the help of two Angels, Sabina Wilson (Kristen Stewart) and Jane Kano (Ella Balinska), Elena is suited up as a recruit and the three go on a globe-trotting adventure to stop the bad guys. The Townsend Agency is compromised though as their Bosley (Elizabeth Banks) is seemingly the one behind everything. However, it’s revealed that Patrick Stewart’s Bosley 001 is actually the traitor as he’s got his hands on the device. The Angels all convene at a party that Bosley is at and manage to stop him before anyone is killed. After that, Elena is officially inducted into the Angels and the film fades to black.
Over the last 40ish years, Charlie’s Angels has been a fun, goofy, over-the-top franchise that never took itself too seriously. Even the hit-or-miss films from the early 2000s never delved much into the realm of real action blockbusters. The first mistake the 2019 reboot makes is trying to deliver a legitimate action film on the back of a franchise that was always built more on fun. The second, (and third and fourth, etc.) mistake this film makes is then undercutting that realistic tone with poorly-delivered and mistimed jokes, clunky writing, and overall bad action direction. Charlie’s Angels, for all it’s flaws though, does flirt with greatness a few times and there are some saving graces that at least make it watchable.
First and foremost, the cast. Headlined by Ella Balinska, Kristen Stewart, and Naomi Scott, this film also features the likes of Patrick Stewart, Elizabeth Banks, Djimon Hounsou, Nate Faxon, Noah Centineo, and Sam Clafin. The three main Angels do the best they can with the material they’re given and Stewart, in particular, is punching way above her weight class, delivering one-liners and quips that in a less serious movie would’ve been perfect. Balinska anchors the trio with a grounded realism while Scott serves as a perfect stand-in for the audience. Stewart and Clafin are two other stand-outs who are sorely under-used and would’ve done much better in a film with more of a tongue-in-cheek tone. Both are over the top and hamming it up in nearly every one of the few minutes on screen.
Another bright spot in the film is a soundtrack that pumps the film full of life, something it’s sorely missing in more than a few spots. The score is a bit cookie-cutter but, it does what it needs to and adeptly tracks the action of the film. Speaking of the action though, that’s one of the film’s most glaring flaws. Banks, who pulls double duty as supporting actress and director, has proven herself to be a good director in the past. And this film is no different as there are multiple ‘spy sequences’ that she handles extremely well. But, the film’s over-reliance on extended chase sequences points out her glaring inability as an action director. One sequence early on sees the Angels chased through the streets of Hamburg in a near-incomprehensible chase that focuses way too tightly on the characters in the vehicles rather than the vehicles themselves.
It’s moments like those that really drag the film as poorly written and/or depicted scenes are mistaken for ‘withholding information for dramatic impact’ time and time again. This, on top of a messy, inconsistent script make this an unnecessary reboot that pales in comparison to even the polarizing reboots of the early 2000s.
Charlie’s Angels is in theaters now.