‘Charlie’s Angels’ in Colombo

Saturday, 16 November 2019 00:02 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


  • Showing at Colombo City Centre Scope Cinemas and Liberty Cinema

Nearly two decades after the first ‘Charlie’s Angels’ movie – and 40 years on from the big-haired 1970s TV show – the franchise has returned in a new form. 2019’s ‘Charlie’s Angels’ still follows three “lady spies” unravelling an evil plot with a bulletproof sense of fun, only this time with fewer gratuitous shots of Cameron Diaz’s butt and a more overt reinforcement of the power of sisterhood.

This is partly because ‘Charlie’s Angels’ 2019 is squarely aimed at teenage girls, strutting its own Barracuda anthem in the form of a modern, remixed version of Bad Girls. While it does little to escape the convoluted plot twists of the previous films and lacks memorable action set pieces, its unconventional female ensemble channels a bright and poppy empowering energy. The target audience of this movie should be satisfied.

‘Charlie’s Angels’ 2019 is not a remake but a continuation of the previous two films and the original ‘70s series. The Townsend Agency employing the “Angels” expands on a global scale and the movie builds on its blueprint for female spies, Kingsman-style. Now they all report to a senior spy known as “Bosley” and learn their trade in militarylike training facilities, complete with the obligatory James Bond gadget basement.

Elena, played by the endearing Naomi Scott (best known as Jasmine in Aladdin), is a young scientist exposing her dodgy big corporation employer. The plot involves a Doctor Who-esque gadget that provides clean energy, but is vulnerable to being weaponised by hackers and criminals.

A clever rookie spy, Elena is welcomed into the Angels’ fold by Kristen Stewart’s Sabina and Ella Balinska’s Jane, two experienced but clashing angels who take time to form a bond.

They have two Bosleys to report to: There’s Patrick Stewart’s laid-back version, originally played by Bill Murray in the first movie. Elizabeth Banks, who also writes, directs and produces, plays a wine-loving ex-spy who mentors the new Angels.

From the outset, Stewart’s Sabina tackles the previous films’ baggage when it comes to women being exploited for their sexuality. Wearing a wavy blond wig and tight dress, she discusses female independence and how being underestimated is an advantage in the spy profession – before flipping a misogynistic Australian thug played by Chris Pang onto his head.

The film’s agenda, apparently aimed at young women, is hammered home by a clumsy montage of real female athletes in their element. Every bad guy the angels encounter is male, goofy and demeaning to women in some way, using lines like “Don’t forget to smile” or inappropriately touching a female colleague in a workplace.

With the weighty themes pressing on the action, the mission becomes about Elena, Sabina and Jane using their specific skills to save the day and solidify their partnership. Balinksa’s pure athletic ability comes in handy for many of the fight scenes, while Jane is the stoic straight-woman to an out-of-the-box Stewart’s food-loving punk-heiress Sabina.

Stewart is set up as the joker of the group, the go-to for a quippy remark or a nonchalantly dopey “I know stuff.” After a brief period settling into these shoes, she seems more and more comfortable in Sabina’s skin – and leopard print outfits.

A car chase is brightened up by Elena’s charming anxiety about dying, but overall the Angels progress from shootouts to hand-to-hand combat sequences without harnessing the same flair as earlier versions. There’s nothing that compares with Drew Barrymore’s hands-tied battle in 2000’s ‘Charlie’s Angels,’ in which she details the order she’ll take out her opposing thugs before triumphantly moonwalking out of the scene.

A few brutal deaths jar with the overall glitzy spy-movie tone but Banks draws out the chemistry between the leads, just as she bound together a group of a capella singers in ‘Pitch Perfect 2,’ her previous movie and directorial debut.

With Ariana Grande producing the soundtrack, Noah Centineo from ‘To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before’ playing a love interest, and other fitting cameos, Banks has equipped ‘Charlie’s Angels’ 2019 with enough hooks for its young adult audience, harmonising the timely messages with the franchise’s ever-uplifting depiction of female partnership.

‘Charlie’s Angels’ hits theatres on 15 November.