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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Charlie's Angels (Superbit Deluxe)
Charlie's Angels (Superbit Deluxe)
Columbia/Tri-Star // PG-13 // May 27, 2003
List Price: $24.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Holly E. Ordway | posted June 11, 2003 | E-mail the Author
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The movie

Charlie's Angels stands well enough on its own as a lightweight action film with lots of humor, but of course it's actually a remake of the 1970s action television show, as viewers with long memories (or a childhood that involved watching reruns of cheesy TV shows on lazy summer afternoons) will recognize. Updated with lots of polish, the Angels in this rendition are played by Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore, and Lucy Liu... three parts of an elite crime-fighting team who work for an elusive millionaire named (of course) Charlie.

Watching Charlie's Angels is very much like eating a large cone of cotton candy. It's brightly colored, light, fluffy, and fun (in a silly way), and you'll probably have had enough before you've actually finished the last sugary bites. There are certainly some clever touches in the film. The opening credits, for instance, are great: after the James Bond-style introductory action sequence, the credits manage to convey the background and personalities of the three Angels in a jazzy, fun way, while at the same time offering an amusing homage to the original television series. In addition to "Charlie" being voiced by the same actor, John Forsythe, I recognized many of the mini-scenes in the credits as reenactments of scenes from the original series, including one that includes both setting and dialogue from the "Angels in Chains" episode of the first season of Charlie's Angels.

The adaptation actually works very well, both in terms of what it keeps from the original and what it updates. For the former, we get the same light-hearted action style, with plenty of gratuitous costume changes (played, I think, with a sense of wry humor), as well as all the plot trappings of the original series: the absent Charlie, the slightly goofy Bosley (Bill Murray), and of course, the whole premise of the Angels as employees of the Charles Townsend Detective Agency.

The characters of the Angels themselves get the biggest update: instead of being fairly "ordinary" police officers who choose to work for Charlie rather than get stuck with boring (and sexist) secretarial duties, we get three highly trained specialists who truly seem competent to take on the adventurous tasks that the plot demands. The film picks up on the feminist potential of the original show: in the 1970s, the Angels surprise everyone by their willingness to be detectives in the first place, carving out a foothold in the otherwise largely male action arena; in 2000, the Angels look the part and fit the part, and nobody doubts it. Throughout the film, all three Angels play up the "I'm a gorgeous babe" aspect, but with a sense of humor that I enjoyed: these aren't "sex object women" but rather, capable women who are having fun with being gorgeous too.

The plot is decent as well, though of course it's tailored to offer the Angels the opportunity to do all sorts of cool stunts (involving lots of costume changes!) more than anything else. Not everything works as well as it might in terms of the overall plot; the "cool scene followed by another cool scene" structure lends itself to having some parts of the movie seem almost irrelevant, while the part of the film involving the character of "Chad" (Tom Green) is simply inexplicable, as it's peculiarly unfunny and labored.

The overall sense of humor and fun in the film carries it a reasonably long way; even so, the energy of the film starts to wind down in the last twenty minutes or so. It's not a problem with the pacing, per se; nothing in the film ever bogs down, exactly. What happens is that the things that are fun about the film (the sassy attitude of the Angels, the nifty 70s-inspired cinematography, the cool action sequences) aren't enough to carry it all the way through. By its nature, the charm of Charlie's Angels seems to do best in a "short and sweet" format; at 99 minutes, it's hardly a long movie, but it does show a bit of a stretch toward the end.

The DVD

Charlie's Angels: Superbit Deluxe is packaged in a single keepcase that holds both DVDs.

Video

Charlie's Angels is presented in a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, which looks very good but doesn't represent the best that this film could look. The bit rate is quite high; at an average of 11.2 mb/s, it's certainly on a par with the bit rates of other Superbits I've looked at.

Color and contrast in particular are handled extremely well. Dark scenes offer a perfect balance of rich, deep black tones with subtler shadows and lighting, and even against brightly lit backgrounds, the foreground images always show correct contrast and detail. The whole color palette of Charlie's Angels is over the top, with bright, wildly oversaturated colors lavishly used throughout the film; the transfer captures the eye-popping look of this color scheme perfectly, with no bleeding or any other problems.

The transfer does fall a bit short of the Superbit ideal, though. Some grain is evident in the picture throughout the film, and edge enhancement is an issue as well. The edge enhancement is barely noticeable in some scenes, while in others it's very obvious; on the whole, the use of edge enhancement reduces the fine detail in longer-distance shots, making the background of the image less sharp. (Ironic, how so-called edge "enhancement" actually works...)

Audio

The default soundtrack is DTS, with the option to select a Dolby 5.1 track instead. Surprisingly, the DTS track is fairly ordinary. The overall sound quality is good, as the track is nicely clear and clean, and the balance of different elements (music, sound effects, dialogue) is handled well. So why doesn't the soundtrack rate higher? Well, it really doesn't offer all that much beyond a decent, clean listening experience. The surround channels are used occasionally, almost as if someone remembered every now and then "Oh yeah, we've got surround capability – gotta use it!", but on the whole the audio experience is fairly front-oriented. The track also lacks the richness and depth that I typically associate with DTS soundtracks; as I've said, it's a competent track without any problems, but it doesn't go to the next level.

The 5.1 track is quite similar to the DTS; the DTS seems to be a little louder, and possibly has just a bit more depth to it, but other than that, the sound clarity and use of surround is about the same.

Extras

For a "Deluxe" set with one whole disc devoted to special features, there's not all that much of substance here, to be honest. After watching the special features, I was left thinking, "A whole second disc... for this?" What's more telling, I think, is that the second disc was actually unnecessary.

Yes, that's right: the Superbit gimmick strikes again. The film, on Disc 1, takes up only about 5.8 GB of data, even with the film "as good as it gets" in terms of image and sound quality. The remaining 2.2 GB or so (since a DVD can hold about 9 GB) is simply empty space. Guess how much space is filled by the special features on Disc 2? As it happens, only 2 GB. So Charlie's Angels: Superbit Deluxe could have been issued as a single-disc release without compromising the quality of the image and sound transfer in the slightest degree, and without reducing the (not that impressive) number of special features included in the Deluxe set. There's no denying that the "Superbit" label honestly indicates a reliably excellent transfer, but it's also abundantly clear that it's not offering anything above and beyond what any other studio is capable of putting out without sacrificing special features; it appears largely to be a marketing gimmick to justify a high price tag.

OK, so what do we actually get on that second DVD?

"Welcome to Angel World" is a five-minute look at the style of the film; "Angelic Attire: Dressing Cameron, Drew, and Lucy" is self-explanatory and also quite short, at three minutes. "Getting G'D Up" is a six-minute piece about director McG, made up mostly of the cast and crew saying how wonderful he is. The most interesting featurettes are the ones devoted to the special effects. "Angelic Effects" is a seven-minute piece on (go figure) the computer-generated special effects used in the film, while "Wired Angels" is a two-minute look at the execution of an early fight scene. Probably the most interesting is "The Master and the Angels," which offers seven minutes detailing the work of martial arts choreographer Cheung-Yan Yuen as he trained the actors for the fight scenes.

The "extended/deleted scenes" section is only of minor interest. Three deleted scenes are included here, totaling about four and a half minutes; director McG offers very brief opening and closing comments indicating why they weren't included. None of them are particularly good, so it was a good call to cut them.

In the "pointless special features" department, we have DVD-ROM links where you can "Shop the Scene" and buy items seen in the movie (ugh), and check out a Charlie's Angels game web site. There are two music videos, at four minutes each, and we also get a two and a half minute section on "outtakes and bloopers," which ordinarily would be interesting... except that this section is nothing more than the closing credits for the film, with the printed credits removed.

A brief biography/filmography section for the director and actors is included as well, along with trailers for Charlie's Angels, Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle, and National Security.

Final thoughts

Charlie's Angels is fun enough that it makes the "recommended" grade rather than a "rent it": those who followed the original television show in particular will enjoy the film. As a lightweight action movie, it's not bad, and makes for a passably entertaining evening, though not a particularly memorable one. The Superbit transfer is excellent, though not as good as it ideally could have been. Viewers will have to exercise their own judgment about whether to pick up this release, which has DTS sound, or the earlier Special Edition, which has the same special features as this one, plus a commentary track, and may have a comparable video transfer.

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