Grade: C-
Entire family: No
Action-Adventure Comedy
2003, 106 min., Color
Rated PG-13 for action violence, sensuality and language/innuendo
Aspect ratio: 2.40:1 widescreen
Featured audio: DTS-HDMA 5.1
Bonus features: B-
Amazon link

The original Charlie’s Angels TV series (1976-81) was a campy affair that gave viewers a little female eye candy every week and some tongue-in-cheek crime-show action. What made it work were the three stars—Kate Jackson, Farrah Fawcett, and Jaclyn Smith—and not the undercover situations the detectives found themselves in, which were only slightly more outlandish than other crime shows on the air.

In that original TV series, John Forsythe provided the voice of the head of the Charles Townsend Detective Agency, while David Doyle was the lovably uncool Bosley, the angels’ contact and often fourth wheel on their assignments. The never-seen Charlie gave the show a hint of mystery, while Doyle’s doddering Everyman provided comic relief and balanced the chic, ultra-hip vibe that the angels gave off. But the angels were portrayed realistically enough that fans could either identify with their favorite or wistfully lust after them. They came across as real people who managed to find themselves in unreal situations every week.

That winning formula was altered so completely in 2000 by music video director McG that the first Charlie’s Angels reboot seemed little more than an over-the-top extended music video. And McG did the same thing with Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle (2003). The three stars—Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore, and Lucy Liu—are deliberately comic, but the comedy feels clumsily inserted instead of integrated into the narrative. That makes it hard for us to care about their assignment, which gets lost in an onslaught of road-runner-and-coyote action.

There’s a lot of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon-style cable-and-harness stunts, but without the poetry in motion. And there are plenty of poses and situations that are intended to ooze sex, but come across as puerile or cartoonish instead. In fact, the whole film has a cartoonish feel to it, but in a silly rather than clever way. The montage-style narrative is in such a constant state of hyperdrive that the non-stop action, sex, and movie allusions overpower the story and the characters. As a result, I couldn’t tell you what the film is about except that it involves the recovery of some missing titanium rings, witnesses under the protection of the Department of Justice, and the resurfacing of former angel Madison Lee (Demi Moore).

At one point when an angel says “I smell a rat” and the camera cuts to a rat, viewers might be reminded of those masters of movie puns, David Zucker, Jim Abrahams, and Jerry Zucker, who balanced those groan-worthy gags with clever ones and the entire tone of the movie was consistently funny. Here, that pun stands out because it’s only one of a handful of such gags and Charlie’s Angel’s: Full Throttle can’t seem to hit the right notes, tonally speaking. The action, goofy stunts and characters, and sex gambits really feel like a mishmash—especially when McG adds scenic allusions to an endless procession of pop culture films, among them The Sound of Music, Grease, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Singin’ in the Rain, Baywatch, Flashdance, Chicago, The Pink Panther, and Gangs of New York.

In trying to be hip and fun and sexy and over-the-top, McG just created a monster that peasants in theaters everywhere were happy to torch into oblivion—or at least an oblivion that lasted until 2019, when Elizabeth Banks turns up as Bosley and Naomi Scott, Kristen Stewart, and Ella Balinska are the angels. That film is slated for a November 15 release, and fans of the original series have got to be hoping the filmmakers return to what made that campy TV series popular. Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle may be loud and overcaffeinated, but it’s so lacking in substance and cohesive style that a good stiff wind could send it tumbling down the road.

Both the theatrical and unrated versions of the film are provided, along with a Digital code.

Language: I didn’t catch any f-bombs, but there were a dozen or so milder swearwords that popped up.

Sex: The angels are played up as sex objects, with lots of skin shown, an erotic dance, lots of close-ups on female body parts, and a strip club scene where Diaz is shown in a thong with bare buttocks hanging out; men are bare-chested and there’s plenty of innuendo

Violence: One person is strangled, another is stabbed, another blown up, yet another is shot, several others are electrocuted, a woman removes a piece of glass that had gotten lodged in her stomach, major characters seem to die, and there are intense fight sequences

Adult situations: Aside from two bar scenes where there’s an expected amount of drinking and smoking, there isn’t much to report

Bottom line: Watch the original show. This one may be faster and more furious, but the original series was more fun, and more family-friendly.