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Charlie's Angels (2000)
"I just found myself sort of naturally more drawn to the stuff that's more celebratory and just explosive, colorful, and exciting and funny. It's fantasy. It's theatre and film as fantasy and just sort of a bit of escape.
"Charlie's Angels is never gonna be Othello, and it shouldn't be. It's a fun, just ode to joy, kind of pop-a-wheelie kinda movie. I mean, you got Drew, you got Cameron, you got Lucy, you got Bill Murray, you got action, you got color, you got California, you got bikinis and speed boats.
"I like split-screens. I think about the Bond films. I think about Austin Powers. I think about The Matrix. I think about the great MGM musicals. When you see these films that were shot in Technicolor, and they just look so rich and they've got so much color and are so velvety and so luxurious and have so much much depth, and I'd just say to myself, 'why can't they make films that are as beautiful as that anymore?'"
- McG on Charlie's Angels
...and, I mean, that's pretty much the review right there. You know what kind of movie Charlie's Angels is. Charlie's Angels sure knows what kind of a movie Charlie's Angels is. Purty ladies. The camera leering at boobs, butts, and slow-mo hair flips. A whole lotta crazy costumes and disguises, mostly to accentuate...y'know, boobs, butts, and slow-mo hair flips. Explosions. Wire-fu. Breakneck car chases. Multiple dancing sequences. Ill-fated romances. Stinging betrayals. More explosions. Toss in a proto-Dark Knight scheme revolving around using the mics on cellphones to pinpoint a target's location, and I've accidentally delivered something close enough to a plot synopsis.
So if you cautiously clicked on this review, bracing yourself for some kind of re-evaluation of the gender politics of Charlie's Angels through the prism of modern something-or-another, you can rest easy. Instead, I'm just going to rattle off some of what I love so much about Charlie's Angels, most of which I'd either forgotten about or just didn't appreciate twenty years ago.
For starters, Charlie's Angels clocks in almost exactly at 90 minutes, minus credits. In an era when most action flicks are at least thirty to forty minutes longer than that, it's borderline-unreal to see it scream from one huge setpiece to another, hardly ever stopping to catch its breath. There's no prolonged origin story. Charlie's Angels doesn't get caught up in the minutiae of its plot, find itself distracted by long, pointless flashbacks, or screech to a halt with will they / won't they stabs at romance.
You'll go straight from, oh, an elaborately choreographed martial arts battle against Crispin Glover's sword-wielding Thin Man in a Chinatown alleyway straight into a high speed chase on (and off!) the Auto Club Speedway that sends a racecar soaring over the Vincent Thomas Bridge, then there's a splitscreen this-is-how-the-heist-is-gonna-go-down montage that cuts to bellydancing in a Moroccan nightclub and then to posing as a German oompah band with a retinal scanner in a tuba, all leading up to a crossdressing-slash-quasi-dominatrix raid on an impenetrable, multibillion dollar compound. That's just one chunk of the movie too!
There's such a Gatling gun barrage of gags and big action setpieces in Charlie's Angels that they could've filled six or seven different movies, but instead, they used every last one of 'em here. It never even has an opportunity to get boring. There's always something unexpected and wonderful around the next corner. Would you expect to hear Lucy Liu shout "banzai!" before she leaps on Tim Curry's back and gives him a face-smooshing massage with her bare feet? I wouldn't, anyway, and the whole movie is that sort of thing for an hour and a half straight.
Liu, Cameron Diaz, and Drew Barrymore are all clearly having bunches of fun, and that winds up being infectious. You're lookin' at a supporting cast that includes Road House's Kelly Lynch, Sam Rockwell as a billionaire tech mogul with some smooth dance moves, a then-unknown Melissa McCarthy, Matt LeBlanc, Tom Green, Luke Wilson, LL Cool J, Alex Trebek, and a scene-stealing Bill Murray as Bosley. I wasn't sure how a TRL-era music video director's first feature film would hold up twenty years later, but Charlie's Angels remains stylish as hell. The CGI and wire work are showing their age, yeah, but with a heavy emphasis on accomplishing as much as possible in-camera, plenty of the other effects are still dazzling today. I'm not gonna pretend that its sense of humor is bitingly witty or whatever, but from cannonball muffins to Bosley inadvertently looking as if he's swooping in for a kiss with Tim Curry's asshole billionaire, it kept me laughing anyway. I also forgot how ridiculously eclectic the soundtrack is, with more than three dozen songs, heaping on everything from "Undercover Angel" to Pizzicato Five to Korn to "The Humpty Dance".
At the end of the day, the watchword here is "fun". Whatever else Charlie's Angels is or isn't, it sure does deliver that in spades. Recommended.
Surprising no one, Charlie's Angels is a complete and total knockout in 2160p – a straight-up revelation when stacked up next to the comparatively soft, flat, muddy Blu-ray release from back in 2010. The poorly resolved grain of years past makes way for a dazzlingly fine, filmic texture. Definition and detail are in an altogether different class, and while its candy-colored palette still leaps clear off the screen, these hues are considerably more refined.
Looking at, say, Natalie and Alex bellydancing in that Moroccan joint, the magenta and blue lighting in the background is considerably more striking, while the two Angels are more crisply defined in wider shots rather than reduced to a smudge in the center of the screen. The reds, yellows, and blues of the pitcrew's suits and Natalie's racecar are eye-popping yet less overcooked. On Blu-ray, the car's red stripes and the awning above look like a smudge of bright red lipstick, to the point where it's practically blooming; here, detail and texture are immeasurably better resolved, and the particular shade of red actually looks like something hailing from this planet. And hey...! The whites aren't blown out anymore. Charlie's Angels is stylized to the point where its colors shouldn't look naturalistic, but a much more pleasing balance has been struck here.
Oh, and, yes, this disc is an HDR showcase. (Just plain ol' HDR10, though; no Dolby Vision or HDR10+ this time around.) Among the standout moments are the garden lights at Corwin's ritzy party, the headlights of that sexy Ferrari, the fiery ruins of a particularly beloved brick building, the neon and streetlights throughout the big alleyway brawl with the Thin Man, and the stage lights on the set of Soul Train, along with all that specular highlight goodness.
The quality obviously takes a dip throughout the numerous process shots and the CGI that, right at twenty years on, is literally a relic from another era. Otherwise...? Charlie's Angels ranks among the most compelling upgrades that I've come across on Ultra HD Blu-ray, and it's all the more impressive given that this stunning presentation is coming at such a modest asking price.
Charlie's Angels is presented at an aspect ratio of 2.40:1 and arrives on a BD-66 disc.
From just about the first frame of the film, Charlie's Angels' 24-bit Dolby Atmos soundtrack – with a 7.1 TrueHD base layer – makes a hell of an impression. Maybe it's something as subtle as, say, the hi-hats in the height speakers, or perhaps it's decidedly less subtle like, oh, LL Cool J grabbing a dude, jumping out of a commercial airliner three seconds later, and free-falling 35,000 feet. Much as Charlie's Angels as a movie never eases off the throttle, much the same could be said about its immersive audio. The lower frequencies pack a substantial wallop, from pounding taiko drums to a hip hop-heavy jukebox of a soundtrack to...y'know:
There's pretty much always something booming from every speaker, whether it's Korn's downtuned guitars, debris scattering after yet another impossibly colossal explosion, a stampede of computer engineers, the earth-shattering cracks of Alex's riding crop whatchamadoozit in Redstar's HQ, rewinding after taking a tumble out a window, a B-list movie star's trailer being reduced to Swiss cheese, or just about everything with the helicopter once the climax rolls around. Every element in the fray is spectacularly clean, clear, and distinct. You probably don't need me to tell you that there aren't any dropouts, pops, clicks, or any other headaches along those lines to sweat either.
The closest thing to a complaint I can muster is that the levels strike me as a touch low. At the same volume, the accompanying 16-bit DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack is considerably more forceful. I can't claim to have the most golden of ears, but this sounds like more than just a matter of turning up the volume a few ticks to compensate, striking me instead as a deliberate and more surgical rebalancing on Sony's part. Still, while I wouldn't mind if the Atmos audio had that same bite, I prefer essentially everything else about the immersive audio here, and I'm not going to pretend to be the least bit disappointed.
Also along for the ride are four DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks, all 16-bit and in 5.1: English, French, German, and Castilian Spanish. The long list of lossy 5.1 dubs includes tracks in Czech, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Latin American Spanish, Telugu, and Thai. The dubs in Hindi and Tamil, meanwhile are served up in Dolby Surround. I'm gonna need a minute to catch my breath before rattling off all the subtitles. You're lookin' at English (traditional and SDH), Arabic, Chinese (traditional), Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hindi, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Polish, Portugese (traditional and Brazilian), Romanian, Russian, Slovak, Slovene, Spanish (Castilian and Latin American), Swedish, Thai, and – whew! – Turkish.
- Charlie's Angels Sneak Peek (2 min.; 4K / HDR): Elizabeth Banks briefly introduces this teaser for her upcoming spin on Charlie's Angels, which...hey! 4K. HDR. Always nice to see.
- Original Trailers (4 min.; HD): The only other extras on the Ultra HD disc are a teaser and a theatrical trailer for the circa-2000 flick. Those, alas, didn't get a 4K upgrade, but whatever.
- Audio Commentary: To dig into the rest of Charlie's Angels' extras, you'll have to pop in the second disc in the set. It's the exact same Blu-ray disc that Sony issued in 2010, so you might already know what you're getting into here. First up is a commentary track with director McG and cinematographer Russell Carpenter. It's not afraid to get technical, whether it's a deep dive into the lighting or dissecting how the most ambitious setpieces were executed. Among the revelations are Crispin Glover's three page treatise on the psychological and physical characteristics of the Thin Man, what an accomplished accordion player Lucy Liu truly is, returning Drew Barrymore to the house from E.T., and McG incorporating the song from the first music video he ever directed into his first feature film. A decent listen.
- Deleted Scenes (5 min.; SD): All three of the deleted scenes on Charlie's Angels are accompanied by a brief introduction by McG, and another two have outros spelling out why they were yanked. They include a fierce game of Marco Polo between Corwin and Bosley that better gels with some of the dialogue left in the flick, a bunch of dick size double entendres in a men's room sequence, and hey, there's more heatin' up in the kitchen than a Shake 'n Bake dinner.
- Outtakes & Bloopers (3 min.; SD): Basically just the stuff from the end credits without the actual text overlaid.
- Getting G'd Up (7 min.; SD): Charlie's Angels ain't nothin' but a G thang, baby, as we learn in this seven minute love letter to the film's hypercaffeinated, infectiously enthusiastic, whirling dervish of a director. "Getting G'd Up" features comments from first assistant director Mark Cotone, editors Wayne Wahrman and Peter Teschner, special effects coordinator Paul Lombardi, director of photography Russell Carpenter, production designer J. Michael Riva, and actors Drew Barrymore, Tim Curry, Cameron Diaz, Lucy Liu, and Bill Murray, along with heaps of behind the scenes footage. The key talking points...? Energy. Visual stylist. How he has every shot of the flick meticulously mapped out in his head, yet he's still super-collaborative and open to new ideas.
- The Master and the Angels (7 min.; SD): It required three months – eight hours a day – of grueling training in strength, flexibility, and wire work to mold the film's three stars into capital-A Angels. A long list of folks are interviewed about the distinct fighting styles of each of the Angels, the actresses' perserverance both during training and the physically demanding shoot, and just how much it means to get a pair of thumbs-up from the legendary Yuen Cheung-yan (y'know, the "Master" in the featurette's title).
- Welcome to Angel World (5 min.; SD): McG, production designer J. Michael Riva, art director David F. Klassen, and property master Russell Bobbitt give you a guided tour of Angel World – which is kinda like our reality, just...more. They show off a number of the standout sets, among them a painstaking reproduction of the bathroom from The Shining and the Angels' office updated for the year 2000. Hey, they might've even tracked down the exact speakerbox used in the TV show!
- Angelic Attire: Dressing Cameron, Drew, and Lucy (3 min.; SD): Costume designer Joseph Aulisi is the driving force of this featurette, explaining how each of the Angels' personalities are reflected in their wardrobe. And yeah, the spotlight is swung over in Bosley's direction as well.
- Angelic Effects (7 min.; SD): Charlie's Angels features somewhere in the neighborhood of 600 effects shots – a colossal number back in those days – from wire removal to missiles. "Angelic Effects" explores how those visuals were brought to life, with comments by McG, editors Peter Teschner and Wayne Wahrman, special effects coordinator Paul Lombardi, compositor Doug Forrest, and director of photography Russell Carpenter. Pretty much all the biggest setpieces get some behind-the-scenes love here, including the hyperambitious opening aerial assault, a cannon capable of launching stuntcars some two hundred feet, an Airstream trailer prepped for two thousand bullet hits, the whole slo-mo magic bullet thing, the staggering amount of work required to pull off that helicopter sequence, and blowing up all sorts of stuff in-camera. It's by far the meatiest and most entertaining of Charlie's Angels' extras.
- Wired Angels (3 min.; SD): Catch a peek at how the alleyway brawl took shape: from before the wires were digitally removed and with the original production sound, and then marvel at how glossy and spiffed-up the finished product wound up being.
- Music Videos (8 min.; SD): Music videos for Destiny's Child's "Independent Woman, Part I" and "Charlie's Angels 2000" by Apollo Four Forty round out the extras.
Riding shotgun alongside these two discs is a digital copy code. Tragically, I must report that the earlier release's BD-Live features don't seem to be doing a whole lot of anything these days. Best Buy has an exclusive steelbook, but if that's not your thing so much, you can still thrill to the shiny slipcover on the standard release.
The Final Word
That this Ultra HD reissue of Charlie's Angels looks and sounds as amazing as it does comes as no great surprise. More unexpected, given that I haven't revisited the flick since it first hit DVD right at twenty years ago, is just how well Charlie's Angels still holds up. The deliriously over-the-top action sequences are as much of a blast as ever, the laughs still land, the whole thing screams ahead at an unreal pace, the soundtrack's so much better than I remembered, and the cheesecake is...well, yeah. Charlie's Angels may be a Big Dumb Action Movie, sure, but it's a big, dumb action movie done right. Entirely too much fun to not at least come Recommended.