"Thuds, tears, and cracks assault the audience. "


An Illusion review by Joan Ellis                 

                The first “Charlie’s Angels” had wit and flair and three female action figures who became instant excitement for female adolescent admirers.  Natalie (Cameron Diaz), Dylan (Drew Barrymore), and Alex (Lucy Liu) were an appealing substitute for Arnold Schwarznegger, and they brought pizzazz to besting the bad guys.  “Charlie’s Angels:  Full Throttle” is vile.

                It runs with blood, explodes in fireballs, and treats us to the sound of snapping bones.  Sure it’s tongue in cheek, a comedy of exaggeration, but the filmmakers have destroyed the fun and humor.  No longer a comedy of the trio using its fighting skills to level the field, it has become mean-spirited.  Each time one of our heroines is victorious, she giggles, and it’s silly.

The soundtrack is relentless.  Wound up to just this side of ear splitting, every bodily injury is magnified.  Thuds, tears, and cracks assault the audience.  Other than a mention or two of the federal witness protection program, there is no plot.  Other than the initial sight of a few new fangled gadgets, there is no thrill.  Dirt bikes, high art skateboards, surfboards, high wires - all go by too fast for anything to sink in, and that’s the trouble, or maybe that’s the blessing. 

                Three women indulging their martial arts skills and their wits to overwhelm villains is a fine premise for a series.  But in taking it out of fun and into the hard core action level, the long list of producers (including Drew Barrymore), writers, and director McG have ruined the sequel.  One of their worst mistakes surely, is that the script is genuinely misogynist.  The women may win the battles, but they are the fodder for all the nastiness of the men.  In a bar scene, for example, a butt-thumping barfly is thrown through a glass jukebox.  Sure, Natalie won, but on the way to victory, she became the usual shopworn object.   

                Lucy Liu  is crisply efficient as she dispatches her targets, Drew Barrymore, the mother figure of the group (yes), has left her outrageousness at home, and Cameron Diaz, supposedly the big smile everyone can love at $20,000,000 per picture, acts here like a seriously dopey pre teen.

                In a completely unexpected way, Demi Moore stands out as the villain, Madison Lee.  Ms. Moore is not normally associated with humor or high-risk fun, but she is easily believable as a fit, tough, mean, treacherous former angel.  Call her fallen, call her lost, she is right in tune with the new nastiness of the series. 

                The millions of young people out here are smart; they want to wonder, to figure out the mystery, to follow the story.  They did not like this movie.  If Hollywood wants us to see movies on hot summer nights, give us something to play with in our heads.  Try the old formulas with new twists:  Who dunnit?  Who’s got it?  Where is it?  Film that, and we’ll come back. 


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