Nearly two decades after the first Charlie’s Angels movie, the franchise returns in a slightly different form. The story still follows three “lady spies” as they unravel an evil plot with a bullet-proof sense of fun, only this time there are less gratuitous Cameron Diaz butt shots, 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 same 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 TV series. The Townsend Agency employing the “angels” expands on a global scale and the movie builds on its blueprint for female spies Kingsman-style, having them all report to a senior spy known as “Bosley” and learn their trade in military-like training facilities, with access to the obligatory James Bond gadget basement.
Elena, played by the endearing Naomi Scott (best known for Jasmine in Doctor Who-esque gadget that provides clean energy, but is vulnerable to being weaponized by hackers and criminals.) is a young scientist exposing her dodgy big corporation employer. This involves a
A clever rookie spy, Elena is welcomed into the fold of the angels 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, Patrick Stewart’s laidback version who was originally played by Bill Murray in the first movie, and Elizabeth Banks’ wine-loving ex-spy who mentors the angels for most of the film.
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 Simu Liu’s misogynistic Australian thug onto his head.
This agenda aimed at young women is hammered home by a clumsy montage of real female athletes in their element, and partly tucks this film under a heavy blanket. 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 work together and solidify the strength of their partnership. Balinksa’s pure athletic ability is utilized for many of the fight scenes, her Jane the stoic straight-woman to an out-of-the-box Stewart playing food-loving punk-heiress Sabina.
Stewart is set up as the joker of the group, the go-to for a quippy remark or a plain nonchalantly dopey, “I know stuff.” After a short time of settling into these shoes, she seems more and more comfortable in Sabina’s skin — and leopard print outfits.
A car chase is made less drab 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, for example, 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 and then goofily moonwalks out of the scene.
A few brutal deaths jar with the overall glitzy spy territory but Banks, who also writes, directs and produces, draws out the chemistry between the leads in the same way she bound together a whole group of acapella singers in her previous movie and directorial debut Pitch Perfect 2.
With Ariane Grande producing the soundtrack,Noah Centineo playing a love interest, and other fitting cameos, Banks has embedded Charlie’s Angels 2019 with enough hooks for its young adult audience, harmonizing the weighty messages with the franchise’s ever-uplifting depiction of female partnership.
Charlie’s Angels hits cinemas Nov. 15.