Somewhere in the last three years, the Angels have seemingly lost their way. 2000's hit film combined a first-time feature director with a popular TV franchise in an era where people were starting to get the idea that, gee, Hollywood just might be running out of original ideas. However, the film provided a mindless mix of sass and stunts, paired with a mild amount of plot.
The sequel, on the other hand, is about the best (or worst, I guess, depending on how you look at it) example I've seen of "less is more." Louder, busier and not as good a balance of humor and action as the first picture, "Full Throttle" is something of a mess. However, I still must admit that the sequel at least hears the music on occasion.
Once again, Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore and Lucy Liu star as Natalie, Dylan and Alex, three girls recruited by "Charlie" to fight crime and save the day and all that good stuff. The plot this time around, which is almost not worth discussing as it gets thrown out and forgotten about halfway, deals with decoder rings that reveal the identity of those in the witness protection program. There's also the business of a "fallen angel", one Madison Lee (Demi Moore), who has plans for both the angels and the list.
The film is overloaded with the stylistic choices of director McG; bright colors, split-screen, slo-mo, quick zooms and more. While this worked in the original film and in the McG-produced TV series "Fastlane", it's starting to get especially tired here, especially the "Matrix"-inspired slo-mo fight scenes. The film's editing and structure is even more fractured than the first film; the entire picture feels more like a series of episodes than a coherent movie.
The film's humor is certainly more mixed this time around, as well. A running joke that the Barrymore character was previously named Helen Zaas isn't funny the first time and it grows progressively more irritating every time it's mentioned. A constant series of cameos (including the Olsen Twins) is more distracting than enhancing. The film is such a surreal zone than John Cleese, in a cameo as the father of Liu's character, doesn't even get a laugh. Bernie Mac, hilarious in "Ocean's Eleven", doesn't manage much here (although a sequence where he plays a crossing guard while the angels give chase down the road is a riot) in what amounts to a cameo as the brother of Bill Murray's Bosley character in the first picture, also named Bosley.
Still, there are some positives. Most notably, the wonder that is Cameron Diaz. While remarkably beautiful, Diaz still manages to care little about making herself look foolish for a laugh and has a certain goofy, cheerful comedic timing that shines again here (the opening sequence where she walks into a Mongolian shack with a copy of Frommers in hand is priceless). The other highlight is Demi Moore, who is more believably tough than any of the angels. Despite being essentially an extended cameo, Moore makes a strong impression with a sleek, somewhat dark performance. It's nice to see "G.I. Jane" back in action again.
Note: The "unrated" version isn't much of a draw, amounting to little. It's another instance of not "racy unrated" or anything like that, it's simply "a minute or two of material that we just didn't show the ratings board and decided to put in."
VIDEO: "Full Throttle" is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen by Columbia/Tristar. The presentation's generally pleasing enough, although it has a few more concerns than most of the studio's efforts. I'd guess that the eventual Superbit edition - the arrival of which wouldn't be much of a surprise - might smooth out some of the issues seen here. Sharpness and detail were generally strong throughout the presentation, as definition remained consistently good throughout the film.
However, some problems did occur and when they did, they were noticable. Edge enhancement is present in minor amounts in several scenes. Mild compression artifacts were spotted in a few scenes and the film's ridiculously vivid color palette could occasionally look a bit smeary. As for said color palette, it looked pretty fine, otherwise, with strong saturation. Black level remained solid throughout, as did flesh tones. Overall, a pretty good effort, but there's a few rough patches.
SOUND: "Full Throttle" is presented by Columbia/Tristar in Dolby Digital 5.1. I can't say I ever remember a film being presented as loudly in a theater as "Full Throttle" was. Despite being in the middle of a large auditorium, the film's sound volume was still nearly painful. Some discussion online revealed that others had the same experience. With the DVD's home theater experience, I'd be able to more accurately judge and maybe enjoy the film's sound mix without being so overwhelmed by it.
And, actually, I found myself more pleased with the experience of "Full Throttle" in a home theater environment than I did theatrically. The experience seemed less dominated by the film's music, for starters. Although the music still has fine presence in the mix here, everything seems a bit more balanced. The rear speakers are put to fine use here, not only offering some reinforcement of the music, but also frequent sound effects. Overall, it seemed like a much more active and immersive experience.
Sound quality was about as good as one would expect. The music had a nice kick, while sound effects had solid impact. Dialogue also remained clean and clear. Bass was strong at times, although it wasn't as ridiculous as it was in the theater.
Commentaries: The DVD offers two commentaries - one from director McG, the other from writers John August ("Go") and Cormac and Marianne Wibberley. McG is as animated and energetic as his style, enthusiastically discussing just about everything "Full Throttle" from the style of the picture to the technical aspects. The only problem is that the discussion is a little unfocused, as the director changes topics whenever anything else comes to mind. The commentary is a "telestrator" commentary - meaning, the director highlights things on-screen similar to "Monday Night Football". It's put to decent use here to highlight certain things, but it's not particularly necessary.
A bit better is the writer's commentary, as the three have a fun dynamic and take things a bit more lightly. The track provides a good counterpoint to the director's; while McG talks about the the production, the writers are able to discuss all the versions and alterations that the film went through during the writing process. Yet, they still are very familiar with the production and are able to tell stories from the set that are a lot of fun.
Featurettes: The other main supplements are a series of featurettes, a few of which can be accessed during the movie if the fact track is turned on and a few of which are accessible from the main extras menu. The featurettes available from the extras menu include "Full Throttle" (a look at the film's cars); "Designing Angels" (a look at the film's cinematography and visual style); "Short Shot" (the role of a producer in a big-budget film); "Angels Makeover Hansen Dam" (work done for the film's big opening sequence) and "Dream Duds" (costume design). Similar to the featurettes on the first film's DVD, these are lightweight and not very in-depth. The only featurette that I liked was "Short Shot", as it offered an interesting look at trying to control a film production of this scale.
Also: Jump-to-a-cameo feature; Pink's "Feel Good Time" music video; online game, filmographies and trailers for "Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle" and other Columbia/Tristar titles.
Final Thoughts: "Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle" is a disappointing follow-up, lacking the humor of the first film and replacing it with constant, tiring loudness. There's a few scenes where the movie clicks and runs with it, but the whole film is very hit-and-miss. Columbia/Tristar's DVD offers good audio/video quality and supplements. Recommended for fans; others should try a rental first.