Charlie’s Angels – Film Review
by Fran Winston
Directed by: Elizabeth Banks
Starring: Kristen Stewart, Naomi Scott, Ella Balinska, Elizabeth Banks, Djimon Hounsou, Sam Claflin, Noah Centineo, Patrick Stewart
In cinemas November 29th
I usually make a point of not reading too much about a movie before I review it as I don’t want to inadvertently influence my thoughts on the work. However, it was nigh on impossible to avoid all the furore about this in recent weeks since it failed to perform as expected at the US box office and director Elizabeth Banks was very vocal about the reasons she believed it didn’t meet its studio expectations. However, it has a good cast and the advantage of brand recognition so I was still surprised that it was being so completely slated.
Stewart, Scott and Balinska play the new generation of Angels. In case you are not familiar with the premise these are a group of glamorous and highly skilled investigators that work for the Charles Townsend Agency (the Charlie of the title). Gone are the bouffant hair dos of the 70s Angels and the quirky humour of the early noughties offerings produced by Drew Barrymore. Instead these Angels are very much kick ass heroines who can more than handle themselves. Also, in this incarnation the agency has branched out and now employs similar young women all over the world. When they are approached by a young woman who wants to expose her boss (Clafin) for covering up a flaw in an energy conservation device she discovered, the Angels discover betrayal at the highest level and have to put their lives on the line to try and save the world.
If that all sounds a bit dramatic and convoluted that’s because it is. There are dozens of characters and lots of twists and turns that you can see coming a mile away. By opening up the world of the Angels (quite literally) to include several agencies they have somewhat diluted the characters. The three leads do their best with some clunky dialogue and a supposed Girl Power message. But the reality is that the parts are woefully underwritten – perhaps they were hoping that the action scenes would make up for this. Indeed, the opening scene is very promising and bodes extremely well, but it goes somewhat downhill from there. Even the usually wonderful Sir Patrick Stewart seems to struggle here and that man could make the telephone book believable.
At times the style and tone reminded me a lot of Mission Impossible. However, the world already has that franchise and doesn’t need a female led version of it. The 70’s TV show may have been as much about bouncy hair and big smiles as it was about the investigating but it was great fun – and given the era it actually was pretty radical to have three women in lead roles like that. The noughties films, directed by McG, managed to be empoweringly sexy and were also enormous fun while managing to modernise the franchise. However, this version is just a bit…well.. bland and offers nothing to the brand at all.
There are a few nice touches – the homage’s to the earlier incarnations in particular, but they’re not enough to keep you engaged. It’s as if it’s trying to be so woke it forgot that it also has to be entertaining. While it is great to see a female led action film helmed and written by a woman this misses the mark completely which is a real shame.