In the year of Our Lord, 2019, the general expectations from a Hollywood reboot are rather low. After almost half a decade of getting carpet-bombed with new dino parks, ghost-killing teams, evil board games, jewel heists and alien-hunters with a penchant for black, merely a handful have managed to stick to the wall. Now with the bar so exceptionally low that one could see it kiss the ground, yet another reboot has coming knocking at a theatre near you, eager to try its luck.
With Charlie’s Angels, actor-director Elizabeth Banks has brought back the campy, glossy 2000 franchise having shed a lot of the camp and gloss from it. The new version, starring three new women in spandex and Kevlar, is packed with more action and less male gaze. And it delights me to tell you this: It’s not unwatchable. But it also pains me to tell you: That’s just about it.
Watch Charlie’s Angels’ trailer:
As previously explained, my expectations were so low that the fact it kept me interested for two hours was a small feat in itself. While Banks can definitely take credit for a more mature, more power-packed perspective on this film about spies for hire, it was the actor themselves that proved to be the best part of it all.
Marking an impressive return to the mainstream with the film is former vampire and runaway princess Kristen Stewart. She gets the quirkiest part of the three and clearly had quite a lot of fun with it. She swings and glides around (sometimes literally) with great ease, unlike anything we have previously seen her in. She delivers most of the comedic relief in the film and it’s a treat to watch her charm a man and then strangle him the very next second. But much like the man getting asphyxiated, we, too, love to watch her do it. Hopefully, this translates into us getting to see her more in such slick and stylish roles. However, do not read this as my green light to a sequel.
Stewart is joined by Naomi Scott (whom we recently saw in Aladdin as Princess Jasmine) and Ella Balinska (her first major role). Scott plays a bumbling whistleblower scientist who gets help from two Angels—played by Stewart and Balinksa—in keeping her alive and uncover an evil plot by a large corporate. It’s as thin a plot as they come.
In between all the chases, the explosions, the clever heists and the less than foolproof plans, the girls become friends and eventually, teammates. While the chemistry between them was clearly less than electric, on their own, all three get enough to sink their teeth. Scott plays the confused fly in a jar while easily selling the ‘I am so cute, everyone loves me’ side of her. She is clearly the Bubbles of her group. Meanwhile, Balinska is at her best when dislocating jaws or flying off roofs. It is the emotional scenes that she flounders in — best illustrated by the rolling eyes in theatre as she cries a bucket full of tears about a bad week she has just had and you wonder, was it though? Maybe a recent loss and the budding friendship makes her feel this way, but again, shoddy screenplay never stressed on any of it hard enough.
But that’s what is to be said about much of the film. A sub-par script, an oft-seen plot and the same action sequences help none of it. Add to it the highly unnecessary, done-to-death location hopping, whether for tax rebates or simply to use fancy fonts to announce London, Paris, Istanbul and Madrid, the film is brimming with action film clichés. Banks flexes her budgetary freedom with the multiple locations but still chooses to run a cheap montage of girls cycling with animated smiles or diving into pools, to reveal the film’s title. It looks more like a tampon commercial than anything else. She tries to add some smarts and shove in a lazy twist at the end. No one was expecting a Shyamalan either but it’s not cute to have spotted it a mile ahead.
There are still a few things to appreciate about Bank’s film and her effort. Though she does take away a thick, gooey layer of sexual objectification from what we always knew Charlie’s Angels to be, she does still have a bit of fun with the film. How else would you explain getting Michael Strahan to be one of the many Bosleys or Laverne Cox and Ronda Rousey as the Angel’s trainers. She also somehow gets Scott to dress in Jasmine’s red slave dress, complete with that golden collar; even Disney could not manage it. Credit where credit’s due, I guess.
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