As vacuous, high-concept "event" movies go, Charlie's Angels is among the least offensive. Apparently mainly as a result of co-executive producer and star Drew Barrymore's influence, the film has an engaging playfulness - rooted in genuine affection and self-parody - with appealingly assertive, take-charge women who completely dominate the men, sexually and in the film's non-stop action. These refreshing qualities make the film almost exhilarating in its hyperactive opening scenes, but long before it's over the picture collapses under its own weight. The $75 million production, loosely based on the popular 1976-1981 television series, so bombards the viewer with eye candy that by the climax the audience is too exhausted to care much about how it'll all come out. In the end, Charlie's Angels is like a solid-gold toilet seat - impressive in its way but ultimately pointless.
Sony's Blu-ray disc offers an adequate transfer of the visually spectacular film, rich with bright, primary colors, and supplemented with previously released extra features.
Story-wise, the 98-minute movie closely resembles a 50-minute episode of the TV series, though story is the least of the film's concerns. Natalie (Cameron Diaz), Dylan (Drew Barrymore), and Alex (Lucy Liu) are private eyes working for the elusive, never-seen millionaire Charles Townsend - Charlie (voiced, as he was in the original TV series, by John Forsythe). Bosley (Bill Murray) is Charlie's assistant, acting as an intermediary between Charlie, his "Angels," and their clients. Unlike the TV show, the movie provides the girls with James Bondian gadgetry and outrageous superhero-like prowess.
What plot there is involves the apparent kidnapping of a Bill Gates-type software genius, Eric Knox (Sam Rockwell). Business partner Vivian Wood (Kelly Lynch) hires Charlie's Angels to rescue him from communications magnate Roger Corwin (Tim Curry) before he can get his hands on Knox's latest invention, a voice-recognition system. Combined with satellite monitoring, it would enable users to track down virtually anyone anywhere in the world, rendering privacy a thing of the past.
Charlie's Angels was directed by Joseph McGinty Nichol, who goes by the professional moniker "McG." This was his first feature after a well-regarded series of music videos and television commercials. Charlie's Angels itself very much resembles a movie-length music video or extended television commercial, with its short-attention-span cutting, in-your-face action, and loud pop music blaring non-stop on the soundtrack - including seemingly every song with "Angel" in the title but also Pizzicato Five's "Twiggy Twiggy" and Kyu Sakamoto's "Ue wo muite arukoi" (better-known in the U.S. as "Sukiyaki"), which surprised this Japan-based reviewer.
As many as 30 writers worked on the script, but Charlie's Angels is really much more about its look and sassy, sexy attitude. Almost every shot is visually arresting; even an ordinary fast-food drive-thru is made to look glamorously retro. The locations, including the Chemosphere house in the Hollywood Hills, are well chosen, and the three leads wear colorful costumes throughout, probably going through 50 costume changes during the course of the film.
But there's little in the way of breathing room and what brief pauses there are tend to expose just how empty the picture is. Nevertheless the women are unusually appealing here. Barrymore's character, the "bad" girl among the angels, is flirtatious while Diaz's, apparently both a genius and a scatterbrain at once, has a genuinely sweet blossoming romance with an equally clueless bartender well-played by Luke Wilson.
There's an obvious affection for the original TV show which, while conceptually ingenious was routine and undistinguished, though initially quite popular. The movie embraces its iconography, including the TV show's clever opening title design. It's also nice to hear Forsythe's voice emanating from that little white speaker again. Like the TV show, the film poignantly closes with the Angels almost but not quite getting to meet their boss, a wrap-up scene that's like a little tribute to the distinguished actor playing him. (Forsythe passed away earlier this year, at the age of 92.)
Video & Audio
Filmed in Super 35, Charlie's Angels 1080p/2.40:1 transfer is okay, with the bright color scheme dominating in place of pristine clarity. The all-region disc features the expectedly loud DTS-HD Master Audio tracks in English, French, and Portuguese, with 5.1 Dolby Digital Spanish track also. Subtitles in all those languages - plus, inexplicably, Swedish - are included. It's the kind of visually rich, aurally noisy film electronics stores like to display on their big screen TVs, though personally I still prefer something more along the lines of Black Narcissus.
The supplements consist entirely of material previously included in the March 2001 standard-def DVD, though three heretofore-available deleted scenes in this case are presented in high-definition. Included is a densely packed audio commentary track with McG and cinematographer Russell Carpenter, six standard infotainment-type mini-featurettes focusing on various production aspects (costumes, stunts, etc.), Sony's movieIQ function, a collection of outtakes and bloopers, and two music videos.
Though this may be damning it with faint praise, Charlie's Angels is an empty-headed but harmless high-concept movie that's a lot more enjoyable than it has any right to be. The first-half of the film rides on infectious energy and a playful spirit though by the end I'd had more than enough and found the climax wearying. Still, better than you'd expect and modestly Recommended.
Stuart Galbraith IV's latest audio commentary, for AnimEigo's Musashi Miyamoto DVD boxed set, is on sale now.