“Charlie’s Angels” 3.0 basks in feminist groupthink before finding its true north.
It’s “Fast & Furious” lite. Very, very lite.
The unnecessary reboot for a marginal TV series exists for two reasons. Branded properties remain Hollywood’s higher power. Plus, writer/director Elizabeth Banks wanted to send a message about girl power over and over again.
The studio handed her $48 million to do just that.
Banks should have used some of that cash to hire a better screenwriter. “Charlie’s Angels” offers some modest rewards, but the screenplay is so tin-eared it’s like Al Bundy wrote it in a pique of full-on misogyny.
Only a woman-hater would force Kristen Stewart to say such terrible dialogue.
You don’t have to wait long to learn just how woke the umpteenth “Charlie’s Angels” reboot is. Stewart goes there with the film’s opening line. Literally.
“I think women can do anything,” she says to her target, a man we’ll assume would rather Stewart’s Sabina stay barefoot and pregnant. “I want all my options available so I can decide for myself.”
Does anyone talk like this, beyond Elizabeth Warren volunteers?
Of course not. And “Charlie’s Angels” is just clearing its empowered throat. Sabina describes how women are “invisible” in society and arrive with “low expectations.”
This passes for small talk, by the way.
One generic action scene later we’re watching young girls doing stuff during the opening credits because, you know, feminism.
Why, it’s almost like we haven’t seen girls and women “do stuff” on screen for decades. Yes, Hollywood has a gender imbalance, and yes the industry should make an effort to right that wrong. Is this really the way to address it? So boldly, so clumsily?
The action moves forward one whole year … giving Sabina a running joke that’s as D.O.A. as 75 percent of her lines.
Sabina and partner Jane (Ella Balinska) are on a new mission, helping a whistleblower who fears her company’s negligence could hurt innocent people.
Naomi Scott of “Aladdin” fame is the “accidental” Angel, rounding out the trio. Her Elena works for a firm with a breakthrough product in the clean energy field. Only she knows a design flaw that could be weaponized in the wrong hands.
She teams up with the Angels to stop her unctuous boss (Nat Faxon, perfectly slimy) from making that happen. We know he’s slimy following a meeting with Elena where he dismisses her views and puts his hand on her leg.
We’ll bet that happens more than it ever should. It still plays out like yet another feminist lecture.
“Remember to smile!”
Yes, a male character actually says that, taking us out of the frothy adventure. Again. Is there any doubt we’ll hear the phrase “mansplaining” when we watch the Blu-ray deleted scenes?
Banks is a gifted comic actress, and she proved she could handle a comedy franchise by directing “Picture Perfect 2.” She’s no scribe, if “Charlie’s Angels” is any indication.
The action takes the trio across the globe, fighting baddies, looking badass and swooning over one massive closet.
Empowerment, shmempowerment. Some stereotypes can’t be shaken.
We’ve never seen Stewart so unbridled on screen before. She’s a live wire, but either the gig doesn’t quite suit her or that awful dialogue would trip up the brightest of stars.
Example: The Angels must jet to Hamburg, wherein Sabina says, “Hamburg …. where hamburgers weren’t invented.”
How ’bout this?
“Or we go to German prison, where it’s shnitzel all the time.”
Scott fares better as the scientist who slowly embraces her inner strength. Balinska, in her big screen debut, doesn’t leave much of an impression beyond her gorgeous appearance and slick moves.
That leaves us with some acceptable action sequences, boosted by the silent but deadly menace posed by Jonathan Tucker’s character. The “Justified” standout should play a villain in every other movie. He’s that mesmerizing.
Banks boasts a sharp eye for composition via “Charlie’s Angels,” but her action chops are several rungs below the best in the business. That matters with a spy caper, particularly one that gleefully clings to genre tropes like 007-like gadgets.
The screenplay offers a big, dumb twist, one that makes absolutely no sense but gets us, finally, to the third act. That’s hardly fatal for a spy adventure. It’s still a squandered opportunity to tweak the genre.
To be fair, “Charlie’s Angels” leaves the woke lectures behind after the first, torturous 20 minutes (they reappear on steroids during the end credits). The movie’s first act is blindingly bad, awkward, and unsure of its purpose. The film eventually finds a passable rhythm, but it hardly merits a franchise renewal.
Want to empower women? Drop the lectures and craft a better movie.
HiT or Miss: “Charlie’s Angels” is as woke as you fear, distracting from a generic adventure that might leave some action fans satiated.
A version of this article was also published on HollywoodInToto.com.