Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle

2 out of 5

Directed by: McG

The first Charlie’s Angels has actually aged okay. It’s got a great cast, admittedly competent action framing from McG, and a sort of cheekiness to it that keeps it trekking along for its runtime. Full Throttle – the two-years-later sequel – has not aged very well. A sea change in filmgoing attitudes with growing internetty culture and different expectations as to what’s possible to splatter onto the screen – thanks to flicks like Lord of the Rings, and Matrix sequels – resulted in a fair amount of flicks trying to overreach. Full Throttle does its sequel bits to a T, redoing gags and concepts from the first movie, but it moves way past the acceptably distracting plotting that film and accelerates into an ADD whirlpool of set pieces and costumes that are linked together by slivers of dialogue. It’s exhausting trying to keep up with the film, and in doing so, it unfortunately exposes the ridiculousness of the whole affair, and the complete lack of stakes behind the hunt for the ever-useful list of every secret agents’ aliases and identities, here stored on two matching rings that get shuffled amidst celebrities cameoing.

So there’s one strike. The amped up pace seems to encourage the attempts at humor to get “upgraded” from somewhat innocently kooky to… nonsensical, like just making funny faces and sound effects should get a laugh. This results in a lot of off-timed, almost funny beats, and wastes the positive energies our leads stars once again bring to the screen. Strike two.

But the biggest whiff, here, is in the film’s moving away from (at least seemingly) more practical action and wirework to CGI actors and blue screen, without the budget to do it right and years before it could be done slickly anyway. The Angels fly, weightlessly, like cartoon characters, across poorly-defined spaces; if there’s no stakes in the plot, there’s zero sense of reality in any of the many, many action sequences, and so, again, not much reason to get invested.

We lose Bill Murray to Bernie Mac, which is definitely an absolutely worthwhile swap, but Mac’s bit is wasted on sort of being a stock “black” humor character, which goes along with the sexed up grrl power imagery of the early 00s as another dated element of the pic. We also get John Cleese, playing the father of Lucy Liu, and thanks to his pitch-perfect befuddlement act, there are some chuckly scenes to be had, as well as with the returning Crispin Glover, diving full in to the oddity of his “thin man” character.

Here and there, pieces of the movie work. The opening section – at least before it verily explodes with CGI – is pretty great, setting up a bouncy, mirthful tone that the rest of the flick can sort of play around with, even if it’s never as legit as in that beginning scene – and although it keeps moving through it all way too quickly, when the Angels are together, they’re great together, and clearly having fun, which is infectious enough to keep things moderately watchable.