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The Forgaughtens: Charlie’s Angels (2000)

Charlie's Angels (2000) Movie Review

In 2019, before movies were cancelled, a Charlie’s Angels reboot starring Kristin Stewart came and went from theaters without much of a peep. But unless you were squarely in MTV’s key demographic (super horny and roughly 12-28) at the dawn of the new millennium, you might not have even known this more recent Charlie’s Angels was a reboot.

In the year 2000, Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz, and Lucy Liu formed the beautiful and deadly trio that gives the film, and the 70s television series it’s based on, its title. And at the time of its release, Charlie’s Angels – the feature film debut of director McG – was a fairly sizable hit (roughly $125 million domestic, $265 worldwide). But its cultural footprint is virtually non-existent – so much so that audiences clearly shrugged at both the reboot last year and this film’s direct sequel, Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, in 2003 (more on that film soon).

The film opens with a simple introduction of its premise and our three very different heroines. Natalie (Diaz) is a klutz who seems unaware, and thus unable to control, her sexiness. She wears headgear. She dances like a square. She always speaks in double entendres. Alex (Liu), meanwhile, is an overachiever in everything she does – equestrian, fencing, chess, gymnastics – with one glaring exception. She can’t cook, but that’s something her fellow angels, as well as her boyfriend, Jason (Matt LeBlanc), don’t have the heart to tell her.

Then, there’s Dylan (Barrymore). She doesn’t take shit from anyone, including a drill sergeant she punches out for trying to “R. Lee Ermey” her. She smokes in the high school bathroom. She gives everyone the finger. But she respects Charlie, her fellow angels, and Bosley (Bill Murray), the go-between guy.

Their assignment for this film is to find and rescue Eric Knox (Sam Rockwell), a tech executive who went missing along with his voice recognition software that, in the hands of Roger Corwin (Tim Curry), will make privacy a thing of the past. The ladies find a lead in the form of “Creepy Thin Man” (Crispin Glover) and get some assistance from Knox’s business partner and best friend, Vivian Wood (Kelly Lynch).

To say more would be to betray some of the film’s surprises even though it’s not really that type of film. There seems to be some confusion or disagreement regarding whether the film wants to be a straight action-comedy or if it’s something more satirical. I do think the film struggles a bit in this sense, but I didn’t get too hung up on the differences because most of it is really fun in either case. Barrymore, who was also a producer on the film, apparently fought so that the angels wouldn’t use guns at all and would instead defeat their foes with a combination of martial arts and smarts. More than anything else, that’s where the film thrives because as cartoonish and silly as some of these sequences are, they’re such a breath of fresh air watching them today when few if any action movies do this.

This gets to why I think Charlie’s Angels is mostly forgotten – it’s intensely a product of its time. McG, of course, made his name directing music videos (from bands like Korn, The Offspring, Smash Mouth, and Sugar Ray, among others), and this movie feels like a super expensive 90-minute music video. Make no mistake: I don’t think this is a bad thing. It moves with so much weird energy that I found it infectious in spite of its most glaring and borderline unforgivable flaw – a weird amount of cultural appropriation (Black, Japanese, Middle Eastern – it is an equal opportunity offender). But it’s got a packed soundtrack on top of a dynamic original score, which mixes the TV theme song with some real “Y2K X-treme” electric guitar action, and its cast is a who’s who of the era’s brief supernovas. The angels’ respective love interests are LeBlanc, Luke Wilson, and Tom Green. Need I say more?

It bears repeating, but the film’s cultural appropriation is truly a problem. It feels a little weird saying that I still liked the movie a lot despite it, but you really wish it wasn’t there for how much unreserved fun you could have in its absence. I didn’t even get to Sam Rockwell, who struts and dances his way throughout the entire thing, nor Tim Curry, who does some great Tim Curry things.

Overall, this call is fairly easy. On to Full Throttle!

Verdict: Unfairly forgotten

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