Rated PG-13 - Running Time: 1:38 - Released 11/3/00

For a movie that gets its inspiration from one of the cheesiest television shows of the extra-cheesy 1970s, Charlie's Angels is surprisingly cool. It's not too intelligent, and it doesn't try to be, and I think that's what makes the film so much better than its overrated small-screen predecessor. Written by Ryan Rowe, Ed Solomon, and John August, based on the TV show premise by the late Ivan Goff and the late Ben Roberts, and directed by freshman Joseph McGinty Mitchell under the moniker McG, Charlie's Angels stars Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore, and Lucy Liu as three crime fighters who are also martial arts experts, crack investigators, and all-around fabulous babes, working for a mysterious, wealthy gentleman they've never seen named Charlie (still the voice of John Forsythe), assisted by a bumbling-but-lovable sidekick named Bosley (Bill Murray).

McG's film does not fail to incorporate the blatant T&A sexism that made the show famous, with the girls parading around in everything from bikinis to Spiderman underoos to nothing at all, and campy humor wisely sprinkled in between the Bond-style action sequences. Sometimes the humor gets a little broad (pardon the pun) for its own good, but for the most part McG's movie brings the beautiful crime-fighting trio back to life with exuberance and genuine fun, including cameos and supporting performances by players like Tim Curry, Matt LeBlanc, Tom Green, and L L Cool J.

After the film begins with a spectacular airborne action sequence introducing the ladies and their many stunt doubles, we get down to the angels' first mission: as we hear from Charlie's voice over the '70s-style speakerphone, Eric Knox (Sam Rockwell), a wealthy computer programming mogul, has been kidnapped by the evil and powerful Roger Corwin (Curry), and they must infiltrate Corwin's impenetrable lair to rescue him, with the help of Knox's partner, Vivian Wood (Kelly Lynch). But it's soon clear that things are not what they seem. With the help of a "creepy thin man" (the creepy and thin Crispin Glover), Knox kidnaps Bosley and attempts to kill the angels. Tossing their hair vigorously, they realize he and Vivian are working together to get at Charlie, and they jiggle bouncily into action to rectify the situation.

This film's writing team has crafted a fun sendup of the show that took itself so seriously it fell apart, wisely interspersing the action-oriented plot with a tongue-in-cheek silliness reminiscent more of Austin Powers than James Bond. Director McG also avails himself of the industry's best in special effects, however, incorporating huge fireball explosions, fast car chases, Power Rangers-style martial arts battles, and numerous disguises, even including making two of them up as men (Diaz looks like David Byrne; Barrymore looks like an amalgamation of John Lennon & Paul McCartney). The three women who play the angels obviously had a hell of a lot of fun, with Barrymore radiating sex, Diaz steeped in wide-eyed innocence, and Liu as the ice queen with all the moves but no cooking ability. Bill Murray is amusing but underused as Bosley, and Luke Wilson, Friends's LeBlanc, and wacky MTV guy Green all acquit themselves nicely in small roles as the girls' boyfriends. Tim Curry is quite amusing as the overblown villain, but Rockwell and Lynch are not quite as effective as the real bad guys, perhaps because they are not allowed to join in the film's campy humor. Finally, as has become an industry staple, the credits include out-takes and generally goofy behavior by all. In the end, Charlie's Angels is brainlessly fun, just like its characters. ****

Copyright 2000 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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