Review: Charlie’s Angels

Year: 2019

Runtime: 118 Minutes

Director: Elizabeth Banks

Writer: Elizabeth Banks (screenplay), Evan Spiliotopoulos (story), and David Auburn (story)

Stars: Naomi Scott, Kristen Stewart, Ella Balinska, Elizabeth Banks

By Tom Moore

While the idea of seemingly everything getting a reboot nowadays is starting to become a total drag, there was an odd amount of intrigue I still had for the “Charlies Angels” reboot/sequel/whatever it is. Maybe it was because I liked enjoyed the casting of the new trio of angels or maybe it was because I liked of seeing Elizabeth Banks behind the camera again after “Pitch Perfect 2”. Maybe it’s also because I kind of have a soft spot for franchise and I remember plenty of times that I’d catch “Full Throttle” on TV and always enjoy watching it. So, I had fair expectations going in that the film ultimately meets and exceeds at times, but also falls short of in the same breath.

The film follows Elena (Naomi Scott), a tech engineer that ends up being the target of some dangerously powerful individuals after she reveals information about their latest project being weaponized. However, Elena contacts Edgar Bosley (Djimon Hounsou) and with the help of help of Angels, a private security team made up of exceptionally talented women, she attempts to work alongside Sabina (Kristen Stewart) and Jane (Ella Balinska) in order keep the tech out of the wrong hands.

CHRARLIE
Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott, and Ella Balinska in Charlie’s Angels (2019) (IMDB)

With a generation of fans comes a new generation of Angels, and the film’s lead trio is easily one of the best parts of the film. They all have great chemistry that allows for some great humour come out and for a solid arc about them learning to work with one another. Balinska easily became my favorite with the kind of physicality she brings to the film and some of the personal growth she has as her icy exterior melts. She brings the charm, toughness, and slick attitude that anyone would expect with an Angel and she puts in a strong enough performance her that I’d definitely be interested in seeing her in more leading roles in the future.

“The film’s lead trio is easily one of the best parts of the film. They all have great chemistry that allows for some great humour come out and for a solid arc about them learning to work with one another.”

Stewart, who’s often criticized for her unemotional performances, totally comes out of her shell here as the comic relief of the film. She does a great job bringing a sense of wild energy to the film and even though she can be a little extra at times, she still utilizes Bank’s script to create some good humor. Even those that have criticized her in past, will likely come around to the vibrant performance she gives here, and I hope that her and Banks can come together more often in the future.

As for Scott, she has moments where she’s easy to enjoy, especially with Balinska and Stewart, but the script ultimately lets her down and makes her the weakest of the group. Elena is essentially the undervalued rookie that we’ve seen in plenty of other films and is rarely given moments to break away from this distinction. There’s a moment where she seemingly about to stand up for herself, but it just used for a joke and carries little meaning for her in the rest of the film. Even the moments where Elena’s strengths as an angel candidate are being shown are shoved into the end credits sequence and constantly overshadowed by unnecessary and distracting cameos. Scott is an incredibly strong and, sadly, undervalued actress and it’s just a shame that that doesn’t change here.

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Elizabeth Banks and Kristen Stewart in Charlie’s Angels (2019) (IMDB)

Frankly, the plot and character relationships are also let down by the script at times and even the connections to past iterations of “Charlies Angels” don’t leave the impact they should. The story is just fine overall but is way too predictable at times and falls into the typical reboot formula – especially with its villains. Personally, I’ve always loved how the villains can have a campiness to them. In “Full Throttle”, Justin Theroux’s Seamus O’Grady and Crispin Glover’s Thin Man were some of favorite parts of the film because of how much fun they were and how their campiness made them memorable.

Here, the villains are super bland, lack personality, and the way the film tries to elude to its main baddie is instantly predictable. The film essentially corners itself into going into one of these directions in having viewers guess who’s behind everything: either it goes the typical reboot formula and turns someone that’s been traditionally good throughout the franchise into someone bad for the sake of a surprise or basically copies what happens in “Full Throttle”. Neither option is all that good and the film tries too hard to stay serious with its story and never embraces the fun campiness the serious has had in the past.

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Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott, and Ella Balinska in Charlie’s Angels (2019) (IMDB)

The character relationships are also a little hard to figure out at times as the tone and dialogue don’t always match up from scene to scene. For example, the opening makes it seem as if Sabina and Jane have worked together before and know one another, however, when they see each other again later, it’s like they don’t know one another. The opening never gave off that impression, so it’s strange when the next scene shows something their initial interactions don’t. There’re moments like this throughout the film and it breaks a lot of the momentum and take viewers out of the moment.

“Charlies Angels” doesn’t soar to new heights in promoting strong female action heroes, but it also doesn’t come crashing down to create anything bad.”

This film also isn’t a total reboot of the series as it acknowledges past Angels and entries in the series. With Patrick Stewart’s John Bosley retiring right after the film’s opening, there’s some cool moments where past Angels in the series get some screen time. While this moment would’ve been nice to also acknowledge and celebrate the other Bosley’s of the series as well, it’s still a cool moment that fans will surely appreciate.

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Patrick Stewart and Elizabeth Banks in Charlie’s Angels (2019) (IMDB)

It was also interesting to see Banks delve into directing action along with comedy. It’s no surprise to see Banks excel, for the most part, since she’s always had a firm grasp of my funny bone, but her steps into action direction aren’t as confident. There’re times where the editing totally ruins the action because of how it cut to every single movement. For instance, if someone was kicking it would show the person kicking, then cut to a close up of the kick landing, then zoom out, then zoom in, and this would be all done at such a rapid pace that you could tell how choreographed it was. This wasn’t a problem when the action took place in a tight space or didn’t require a lot of movement, but in most cases the editing really works against the action.

“Charlies Angels” doesn’t soar to new heights in promoting strong female action heroes, but it also doesn’t come crashing down to create anything bad. The main trio make it an enjoyable watch and Banks show some promise in blending her comedic skills with action, but it’s stuck just being a run of the mill reboot with very little identity and surface-level substance.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

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